In July 2012, some 60,000 Sudanese refugees, fleeing conflict in their home country, crowded the Yida camp across the border in South Sudan. Hundreds more arrived each day, exhausted and weak. Each day a handful of refugees died, and the daily death toll was increasing.
As the rainy season began, threatening to worsen sanitation, hygiene, and disease, a study found that about 22 percent of the refugee children under the age of 5 were acutely malnourished. Although USAID, U.N. agencies, and NGOs already were providing emergency assistance, the study — supported by USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) project implemented by Chemonics — offered clear evidence of the need to ramp up support.
Nutrition studies such as this have traditionally been used in emergency situations to catalyze humanitarian action, target nutritional and medical interventions, and contribute to ongoing monitoring. Increasingly, however, FEWS NET is using nutritional analysis to explain the broader context of food security, particularly the underlying causes of and relationships between acute and chronic food insecurity. A more detailed understanding of these causes and relationships could inform longer-term development solutions to food security.
In an expansion of its scope, the project is building its knowledge base on nutrition and increasing the use of nutrition data in its monthly analysis of 36 of the world’s most food-insecure countries. Alongside its long-standing integration of agroclimatology, markets and trade, and livelihoods information, nutrition analysis will add a new stream of critical information on one of the key drivers of food insecurity.