Delivering nutrition interventions to women and children in conflict settings: a systematic review

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Shailja Shah, Zahra Ali Padhani, Daina Als, Mariella Munyuzangabo, Michelle F Gaffey, Wardah Ahmed, Fahad J Siddiqui, Sarah Meteke, Mahdis Kamali, Reena P Jain, Amruta Radhakrishnan, Anushka Ataullahjan, Jai K Das, Zulfiqar A Bhutta

Correspondence to Dr Zulfiqar A Bhutta;


Background Low/middle-income countries (LMICs) face triple burden of malnutrition associated with infectious diseases, and non-communicable diseases. This review aims to synthesise the available data on the delivery, coverage, and effectiveness of the nutrition programmes for conflict affected women and children living in LMICs.

Methods We searched MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and PsycINFO databases and grey literature using terms related to conflict, population, and nutrition. We searched studies on women and children receiving nutrition-specific interventions during or within five years of a conflict in LMICs. We extracted information on population, intervention, and delivery characteristics, as well as delivery barriers and facilitators. Data on intervention coverage and effectiveness were tabulated, but no meta-analysis was conducted.

Results Ninety-one pubblications met our inclusion criteria. Nearly half of the publications (n=43) included population of sub-Saharan Africa (n=31) followed by Middle East and North African region. Most publications (n=58) reported on interventions targeting children under 5 years of age, and pregnant and lactating women (n=27). General food distribution (n=34), micronutrient supplementation (n=27) and nutrition assessment (n=26) were the most frequently reported interventions, with most reporting on intervention delivery to refugee populations in camp settings (n=63) and using community-based approaches. Only eight studies reported on coverage and effectiveness of intervention. Key delivery facilitators included community advocacy and social mobilisation, effective monitoring and the integration of nutrition, and other sectoral interventions and services, and barriers included insufficient resources, nutritional commodity shortages, security concerns, poor reporting, limited cooperation, and difficulty accessing and following-up of beneficiaries.

Discussion Despite the focus on nutrition in conflict settings, our review highlights important information gaps. Moreover, there is very little information on coverage or effectiveness of nutrition interventions; more rigorous evaluation of effectiveness and delivery approaches is needed, including outside of camps and for preventive as well as curative nutrition interventions.