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Nutrition and Food Security

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© / UNHCR / P. Wiggers

A Healthy Diet for A Healthy Life

Ensuring that people have access to adequate nutrient-rich food and safe water is essential for protecting the safety, health and well-being of refugees and other populations of concern. For this reason, UNHCR strives to improve the nutritional status of all the people it serves - mostly women and children.

The right to freedom from hunger and malnutrition is also backed by international conventions, as is the right to the highest standards of health and health care. Moreover, the goals of ensuring that forcibly displaced people have access to adequate health services, food security, water and improved nutrition are included in UNHCR's Global Strategic Objectives for 2008-2012.

The UN refugee agency works to achieve these targets, as well as the goal of ensuring international nutrition standards for all people of concern, through strategic funding and by working in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) and other governmental and non-governmental partners. UNHCR implements the most up-to-date nutritional and food security approaches and technologies in programmes and policies.

UNHCR, which is the lead agency in coordinating refugee nutrition, has also identified essential packages to improve services for populations in need in the areas of nutrition and micronutrients as well as related areas such as reproductive health, malaria and child survival.

In addition, greater emphasis and resources are being put into building the capacity of UNHCR and its partners through training, standard guidelines, strategic plans and additional staffing, coordination and appropriate programme practices.

There is a clear link between nutrition and public health. Communicable diseases brought on in part by malnutrition are responsible for millions of preventable deaths each year. Mass population movements can result in high rates of malnutrition, sickness and death. Shortage of food also makes people more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. Poor quality dierts contribute to delayed childhood development, cayusing irreprabale damage due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

For those UNHCR serves who are living with chronic illnesses, in particular HIV/AIDS, adequate nutrition is vital in maintaining an individual's immune system.

UNHCR monitors the nutrition of people of concern through the Health Information System, regular surveys and nutrition-related databases.




Operational Guidance

Operational Guidance for the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition.

Joint Assessment Missions (JAM)

The JAM Practical Guide has been developed to ensure timely planning and to facilitate the overall process of conducting joint UNHCR/WFP assessment missions


Micronutrient deficiencies represent a largely invisible but often crippling form of malnutrition.

Infant Feeding

Infants need adequate nutrition in the first two years of life for their well-being and development.

Food Security

UNHCR and WFP have implemented multi-storey gardens in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. These gardens are part of a food security strategy to support dietary diversity and enhance refugee contributions to their own food consumption.