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When disaster strikes, the World Food Programme (WFP) is at the forefront, providing not just food, but good nutrition.

The nature of humanitarian crises is rapidly changing. More people are in need of support and for longer periods. Malnutrition is a common consequence of emergencies, disproportionately impacting women and young children. Those affected often have poor nutritional status prior to the crisis, which is then worsened as disaster strips communities of their infrastructure, livelihoods and social structures.

Whether refugees are fleeing war, floods are washing away homes, or drought is destroying farmland, hunger is often the first emergency. When populations cannot access adequate nutritious food for prolonged periods, malnutrition results and lives are lost.

In the long term, poor nutrition – even that resulting from temporary emergency situations – can cause irreversible damage to a child’s growth and development. This can mean that an entire generation of children are not able to reach their potential, with far reaching consequences for communities and long term national development.

WFP’s primary role for nutrition in emergencies is to ensure that those affected by a crisis receive good nutrition. We bring our nutrition expertise to support the most vulnerable during times of crises, either through treatment of moderate acute malnutrition, prevention of malnutrition or both. Young children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are the key target groups for WFP’s nutrition interventions in emergencies.

Given the multiple causes of malnutrition, WFP takes a comprehensive approach to the immediate and underlying causes of malnutrition in emergencies, working with UNICEF and other partners through the Nutrition Cluster.

Good preparedness is critical to mitigating the consequences of any future disaster. Good nutrition prior to an emergency enables better resilience and coping. WFP works with partners and governments to put nutrition programmes in place before a crisis hits. In countries with a high risk of shocks, we help to integrate nutrition considerations into systems and tools for emergency preparedness.

125 million people
are currently affected by humanitarian crises
50 million people
in emergencies were assisted by WFP in 2015 in order to improve their nutrition and food security
12 emergencies
WFP responded to a dozen major emergencies in 2015