Whether it's nature
unleashing her fury through earthquakes, floods, fires, cyclones, blizzards, heat
waves or ice storms, or man-made mayhem such as chemical spills and industrial
accidents, disasters can wreak havoc on the environment and entire populations.
When disasters occur,
international and national aid and relief organizations step in to provide
assistance to the affected population. All of these organizations have
different objectives, skills and resources to offer and when such a large
number of organizations become involved in collective disaster management
efforts, it becomes essential for proper centralized coordination and planning.
Failure to draft effective plans can contribute to the chaos and confusion
greatly hampering relief work. To formulate an effective emergency response
plan, it is vital to anticipate and identify problems in a timely manner.
Food Supply is a Critical Aspect of any Disaster Recovery Plan
Food is the most basic
requirement for survival and it becomes even more important in disaster
situations where there are thousands of sick, homeless and distressed people
who are vulnerable. An important aspect of emergency relief that is often
neglected is nutrition, as emergency feeding needs to do more than satisfy
hunger. In the absence of adequate food selection criteria, malnutrition
remains unaddressed and can exacerbate the consequences of a disaster.
Evaluation of food quality is a prerequisite to emergency food planning as a
'disaster response diet' is one of the pillars of an effective disaster
management plan. A recently published study in Nutrition Journal
investigated and elaborated on the planning
Selection Criteria Study
A team of researchers led by
Michelle Wien and Joan Sabaté conducted a three-phase multidimensional study to determine the ideal food groups
for the creation of a 'Disaster Response Diet' (DRD). While Phase One only
focused on evaluating a food serving with 11 specific food groups measuring daily percentage of nutrient intake and
the NNR score or Drewnowski's naturally nutrient rich score, in the Second
Phase, these food groups were also assessed taking into account certain DRD
criteria. The criteria considered included ease of handling and storage of the
food, ease of preparation and cultural acceptance or personal tolerance.
like fresh fruits and vegetables may be highly nutritious but they are
vulnerable to damage and have a short shelf life. This makes it impractical in
disaster situations. At the same time, simply providing a displaced or
destitute population with nutrient dense therapeutic foods can be counterproductive,
as cultural acceptance of foods and individual preferences come in to play.
several situations, it has been found that certain foods are considered
unacceptable because of religious, cultural or ethnic backgrounds and very
often because the foods are considered unpalatable. In such situations, it is
not uncommon for those in need to use these foods to feed their cattle and
other animals rather than themselves. To these populations cattle, livestock
and farm animals are a richer source of milk and food. This is why both
criteria are equally important.
Three of the study focused on evaluation of DRDs that were formulated based on
the findings from phases one and two of the study.
Implications of the Study on Disaster Response
on their research, it would appear that plant-based foods
should form the backbone of any
DRD. Such DRDs can satisfy the nutritional requirements of urban populations in
the event of any kind of disaster. Nutritional professionals are therefore
urged to follow a plant-based approach when planning relief food aid for homes,
organizations or government agencies.
Nuts and dried fruit
should feature prominently in
any DRD for reasons that should actually be very obvious. They are highly
nutritious, energy dense, easy to transport and have a long shelf life,
acceptable in all cultures, not forbidden by any religious or cultural group,
require little to no processing or manipulation before being transported or
consumed. Many dry fruits and nuts are also extremely affordable.
should be noted, however, that the research was focused on the broad
nutritional needs of a disaster afflicted population rather than on those
suffering from severe malnutrition. Disasters like famine and wars that cause
large scale displacement and starvation require a more therapeutic approach.
The study also does not offer any recommendations with regard to the setting up
of temporary kitchens, staffing and budgeting, all of which factor in a disaster
it comes to food planning as a component of disaster management, the United
States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommendations are worth
noting. The recent study echoed these recommendations that emphasized the
importance of practicality and utility of the food in a disaster situation, not
just its nutrient density. The key is to strike a balance between nutrient
density and foods that are shelf stable and do not require any refrigeration
for preservation. Foods that pose minimal concerns with regard to sanitation in
their natural form are also ideally suited to disaster planning.
addition to providing food aid, food and water safety is a huge concern in the
aftermath of any kind of disaster. Food and water contamination can greatly
accentuate human suffering and it is all too often the aftermath of a disaster
that gives rise to a humanitarian crisis. Provisions should be made to provide
access to safe drinking water, especially to infants and children and lactating
mothers. Fluid is also essential for those who are sick and suffering from
vomiting, diarrhea and fever. If there are problems providing a population with
clean drinking water, steps should be taken to enable the population to use common
methods of water disinfection.
1. Wien, Michelle, and Joan Sabaté. "Food Selection Criteria for
Disaster Response Planning in Urban Societies." Nutrition
Journal 14 (2015): 47. PMC.
Web. 5 Aug. 2015.