Nutrition and Food Security

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Hunger kills more people worldwide than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, and children are the most vulnerable. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases account for 35 percent (3.1 million) of the 8.8 million deaths of children younger than five each year. Malnutrition is a complex problem that can be caused by a lack of adequate food, illness, and poor caring practices – but it is preventable and curable.

Our response

International Medical Corps runs nutrition and food security programmes in some of the world’s most food-stressed areas, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Chad, and Sudan. Our nutrition programmes have a 90 percent success rate, meaning that almost all the malnourished children who come through our programmes recover. Recognising that malnutrition is not just an issue about food, we address nutrition at every contact point we have with community members from water and sanitation projects, screening during primary health care visits, and provision of therapeutic nutrition care. We work with all levels of government, civil society, and parents to improve their ability to provide the range of activities needed to promote healthy growth and prevent malnutrition in children.

Responding to malnutritionPreventing malnutritionFood security
With decades of expertise in treating malnutrition International Medical Corps now uses a community-based approach to management of acute malnutrition (CMAM). The CMAM model provides:

  • Community outreach and mobilisation for nutrition education, and early detection and prompt referral of malnourished children to available services
  • Minimal inpatient care for severely malnourished children with medical complications
  • Outpatient care for severely malnourished children with no medical complications. This approach reduces the time needed for recovery; the burden on the mother; the cost of running an inpatient program and the child’s exposure to other diseases that can weaken their immunity
  • Supplementary feeding for moderately malnourished children to prevent children from becoming severely malnourished and needing more intensive treatment
Prevention of malnutrition not only reduces the cost of programmes, but more importantly protects children from the devastating long-term effects of malnutrition. International Medical Corps malnutrition prevention programmes include promotion of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life; infant and young child feeding; maternal nutrition; nutrition education; food security programmes that promote food diversity; micronutrient supplementation; the addition of supplemental food during hunger periods; and water, sanitation & hygiene interventions to prevent diarrheal disease and the malnutrition that can result. To reinforce nutrition messages and create behaviour change in the community, International Medical Corps works with local communities to develop Mother Care Groups. These Groups are led by local female volunteers trained by International Medical Corps that meet on a regular basis with mothers and their young children to:

  • Prevent malnutrition by disseminating nutrition, health, family planning and hygiene information
  • Improve mother/child interaction through methods like infant stimulation
  • Empower mothers and fathers, and their community to take responsibility for the growth and development of their children

In addition, most of the decision-making regarding critical influential behaviours occurs in the home. Thus, International Medical Corps targets health facilities, community leaders, households and individuals to bring positive and lasting changes in attitudes, knowledge and behaviours

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. International Medical Corps’ food security programmes focus on empowering communities and especially women to provide nutritious foods for their families. Our work includes:

  • Support for home gardens to increase diversity and micronutrient content of available foods for families
  • Design and piloting of household food storage capacity so harvested food is properly stored, decreasing food losses and ensuring that families have food to last them
  • Distribution of seeds and tools to help families produce their own food
  • Water projects that assist families in irrigating their gardens; and emergency food distributions for poor families so they do not have to sell assets to purchase food

How our work is transforming lives

Famine in the Horn of Africa
Promoting healthy diets in Jordan
Darfur, Chad and CAR


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