The use and acceptability of micronutrient enriched foods
A study by Oxfam, UNHCR and Micronutrient Initiative.
Emergency general rations supplied by the international aid community have frequently failed to supply adequate amounts of micro- nutrients for refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDP). This has periodically led to large-scale outbreaks of micronutrient deficiency diseases like scurvy, pellagra and beriberi - especially amongst populations who were completely dependent on these rations.
In order to prevent this kind of tragedy, UNHCR and WFP have adopted a policy of supplying micronutrient enriched blended foods (e.g. CSB, WSB) in the general ration to populations who are
thought to have no access to other food sources. At the moment this approach could potentially fall down on two counts; there may be a lack of available blended foods and little is known about the use and acceptability of these foods. Even though it is feasible to fortify blended foods with appropriate amounts and type of micronutrients to prevent deficiency diseases, unless we know how blended foods are used and accepted, intake for any specific fortification level cannot be assessed. Given the relatively high costs of blended foods, there is a recognised need to find out whether this strategy actually works.
Another preventive strategy that is being considered by humanitarian agencies is the micro-nutrient fortification of cereals. But before this approach can be used successfully we need to be able to answer certain questions such as whether cereals should be fortified before, during or after distribution. The answers are going to depend on such factors as the shelf-life of milled grain, storage losses of micro-nutrients, milling capacity at camp level and most importantly, the acceptability of these procedures to the beneficiaries.
In order to answer some of these questions, OXFAM, UNHCR and the Micronutrient Initiative have set up a research project with the following objectives:
- to investigate the use and acceptability of blended foods and cereal food aid by refugees; and,
- to review opportunities for the fortification of cereals with micronutrients both locally and at household level.
The study will look at how cereals and blended foods are prepared and cooked within refugee households and the inter-household allocation of these commodities. It will also assess food preferences and factors influencing household food use behaviour, e.g., household food security, trading and bartering and food distribution systems. Field work for the project is to be carried out in refugee camps in Nepal, Ethiopia and Tanzania with camps selected on the basis of being heavily dependent on the provision of food aid. The research should be completed by the end of 1997.
For further information contact Helen Young, Emergencies Dept. Oxfam, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford 0X4 7DZ UK. E-mail hyoung@Oxfam.org.uk
Taken from Field Exchange Issue 1, May 1997