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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Maternal nutrition in emergencies

Current evidence underlines the importance of the nutritional status of women as a crucial factor in the survival, healthy growth and development of her children. Although it is the subject of less global attention, maternal nutrition is also crucial for women’s own ability to live a healthy life.

The EC demonstrated its strong commitment to 'enhance maternal and child nutrition in external assistance' by adopting a nutrition policy in March 2013. Specifically in the humanitarian context, the Commission’s support is aimed at treating, preventing and alleviating maternal and child undernutrition, to reduce or avoid excess mortality and morbidity, in emergencies. For maternal nutrition in emergencies, the DG ECHO is concerned that there are a number of gaps at policy and practice levels and limited guidance is available, in order to efficiently and effectively address the needs for maternal nutrition.

A one-day technical roundtable on “Maternal Nutrition in Emergencies” was held in Brussels in November 2013, convened by DG ECHO. The meeting brought together key DG ECHO technical staff and partners, agency nutrition focal points, donors and technical experts. The aim of the round table was to discuss the evidence, current practice and issues related to maternal nutrition in emergencies and to suggest priority actions and initiatives required to address these gaps and challenges.

We would like to share with you the report of this event, prepared and facilitated by Emily Mates and Tanya Khara (ENN), composed of 2 parts. (1) The technical background paper, identified a number of gaps in the area of maternal nutrition in emergencies and formed the basis for discussions at the technical roundtable meeting. The review summarised the available literature relating to: women’s particular nutritional vulnerabilities, what the implications of these are for women and their infants, current international guidance on maternal nutrition and what is currently being done in emergency programming. A series of key gaps were highlighted as a result. (2) The meeting report provides an overview of the discussions held at the roundtable of the main issues, gaps and recommendations.

Key recommendations have been made during the technical roundtable, which will require follow-up. We would like to raise some of the issues and recommendations in future events and meetings, and will appreciate the support of our partners in carrying this issue forward.

Catherine Chazaly

DG ECHO Policy Officer – Nutrition

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