During earthquakes, floods, conflicts, and other emergencies, children younger than five years of age are more likely to become ill and die from malnutrition and disease than anyone else. In general, the younger children are, the more vulnerable they are. Inappropriate feeding increases their risks of death and disease.

Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E) (2004 – 2007) Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies was a privately funded initiative focusing on improving nutrition and food security in complex emergencies, including refugee camps or with communities of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Optimal infant and young child feeding in emergencies was promoted through the provision of counseling and mother to mother support groups for breastfeeding and complementary feeding in the Dadaab refugee program in Kenya, the West Timor region of Indonesia, and the Kasai Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Overall, the objective of the IYCF-E Initiative was to increase the capacity of staff and partners to improve infant and young child nutrition in emergency settings. The approach included development of appropriate skills and tools to contribute to institutionalizing support and knowledge for appropriate IYCF-E globally and locally through the shared learning and communications strategies of internal and external ‘communities of practice’. Project implementation in Kenya was handed over to UNHCR and UNICEF in December 2007.

Results from the project in Kenya indicate:
  • At the end of 2008, staff conducted a survey of mothers assessing their knowledge, attitudes and practices. Results were compared with the 2007 health and nutrition surveys. In 2007, an average of 66.2% of mothers from Hagedera, Dagahaley and Ifo camps initiated breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth, whereas in 2008, an average of 76.5% initiated breastfeeding within that time period.
  • Preliminary results from the 2009 survey show that rate of early initiation increased to 81.7%. The nutrition surveys also showed an improvement in exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) from 4.1% in 2005 to an average of 25.6% in 2008. In 2009, preliminary data also show a continued increase to well over 40%. It should be noted that the camp population increased dramatically during the project period, making the improvement in practices even more impressive.
  • Consistent with improved breastfeeding practices, rates of global acute malnutrition decreased from 22% in 2006 to 11% in 2008 in children under five years of age as indicated by indicated by a standard height for weight index measurement.

Read the final report from this project:
View a Power Point presentation“Infant and Young Child Feeding in Dadaab: Improving practices in a protracted crisis” given by Mary Lung’aho on behalf of Interagency Dadaab IYCF Team UNHCR, CARE & Partners, October 14, 2009.