Bangladesh Nutrition Cluster: Strengthening Preparedness for Nutrition in Emergencies
REPORT BY ABIGAEL N NYUKURI, BANGLADESH NUTRITION CLUSTER COORDINATOR 26TH DECEMBER 2018
The work of Nutrition Cluster (NC) on preparedness has evolved over the years. Initial focus was on supporting Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in developing relevant Guidelines and standards for Nutrition in Emergencies and more recently on capacity building initiatives whilst working towards bridging the humanitarian-developmental nexus. To further strengthen capacities in preparedness for natural disasters, Nutrition Cluster Coordination Team conducted one-day sub-national orientation sessions to Government and Humanitarian actors working in Nutrition sensitive and Nutrition Specific interventions. The over-arching principle was strengthening preparedness for a predictable response; in line with envisaged and profiled Natural Disasters of sudden and slow onset origin in the various Disaster-Prone Districts. The orientation sessions were based on Emergency Response Preparedness(ERP) approach which was aligned to Bangladesh Contingency Plans and Disaster Management Framework.
Some of the identified gaps on preparedness included low technical capacities for Nutrition in Emergencies (NiE) across different stakeholders, weak sub-national coordination mechanisms for Nutrition, a lack of pre-crisis nutrition surveillance system and data, weak multi-sectorial integration on preparedness and the absence of a standardized reporting framework for NiE. Linkages between sub-national and national fora on NiE was also found to be sub-optimal.
Humanitarian interventions aiming to prevent the deterioration, or promote recovery, of nutritional status should be carefully tailored to the nature of each disaster and seek to address underlying causes. Preparedness actions should adopt a multi-sectorial approach to ensure complementarity and sustainability of actions. Whilst preparedness actions should contribute to ensuring prevention and treatment of all forms of under-nutrition; strong emphasis should be placed on promoting optimum Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices for children aged below 2 years as well as prevention of acute Malnutrition among Children aged below 5 Years. Children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) are nine times at risk of mortality than their well-nourished peers. SAM among children is normally exacerbated during emergencies.
The newly constituted District Nutrition Coordination Committees would be a useful coordination platform to mainstream discussions on preparedness, however an orientation to all committee members on Nutrition in Emergencies is paramount to make it a success. Strategies should be developed, implemented and scaled up to ensure preparedness actions are resourced and prioritized at all levels. Capacities for NiE among Government and humanitarian actors need to be further developed and strengthened through suitable context specific and localized capacity building strategies; considering both technical and non-technical audiences. A robust nutrition surveillance system is essential to provide pre-crisis data that will not only inform scale of need when a disaster strikes but will as well enable implementation ofsuitable actions to timely address identified gaps through the regular nutrition Programmes. A comprehensive review and update the currentreporting system for Nutrition to include Nutrition in Emergency indicators is essential to inform progress and identify challenges/bottlenecks around undertaking preparedness actions.