Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Impact of nutrition interventions on pediatric mortality and nutrition outcomes in humanitarian emergencies

October 27, 2017

"Impact of nutrition interventions on pediatric mortality and nutrition outcomes in humanitarian emergencies" was published in theTropical Medicine & International Health Journal on October 9, 2017.

Natural disasters and conflict left nearly 90 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2016 and over 60 million people displaced from their homes. One of the major threats to children especially during these humanitarian emergencies is malnutrition, caused by a combination of decreased access to food and increased rates of infections. Nearly half of all child deaths worldwide may be due to malnutrition, yet there is limited evidence for what interventions work best to prevent and treat malnutrition in children during humanitarian emergencies.

Our review is the largest summary to date of this limited research on nutritional interventions for children during humanitarian emergencies. While the 31 studies included in our review covered a wide range of emergencies, including famine, drought, earthquakes, monsoons, and war, the vast majority of studies were found to be of low quality. However, the 6 studies found to be of moderate or high quality identified a number of promising interventions for reducing child mortality including ready-to-use therapeutic food (a high energy peanut butter paste), Vitamin B1 supplementation, and cash transfers.

Unfortunately, the numbers of children affected by climate-related disasters will only grow during the 21st century. The primary finding of this review is the need for more research (and better quality research) into the most effective and cost-effective interventions for saving children’s lives during these emergencies.

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