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Funding gap for nutrition

Nadia Beauzile with her baby born after the 12 January earthquake; the mother does not want to breastfeed for fear of passing along her "bad health"
(Phuong Tran/IRIN)

Donors have earmarked just 6 percent of the funds sought for post-earthquake nutritional assistance to women and children in Haiti, according to the UN.

A US$576.9-million flash appeal launched on 15 January is 92.9 percent funded overall, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). But “some sectors of the relief effort have received little funding so far,” OCHA said in a 8 February statement. Aside from nutrition, these include security (6 percent funded) and agriculture (8 percent).

The flash appeal calls for $48 million for nutrition for women and children, the third-largest sum for a sector after food aid ($246 million) and water, sanitation and hygiene ($58 million).

The priorities of the nutrition sector in Haiti include assessments and analyses, as well as delivery of high-energy biscuits, ready-to-use therapeutic foods and fortified meals. The target beneficiaries are 2.4 million women of child-bearing age, 240,000 pregnant women and 600,000 under-five children.

Ensuring proper nutrition among the most vulnerable people, chiefly mothers and young children, helps prevent opportunistic sicknesses and permanent damage to physical or mental health, according to UNICEF.

“If we do not have enough funds to ensure the nutrition of any vulnerable group, being young or old, we will run into a high level of acute malnutrition in Haiti,” said Mija Ververs, nutrition expert with UNICEF, lead agency in the nutrition sector.

[UPDATE 13 February: A UNICEF spokesperson contacted IRIN from New York late Friday to point out that most of its funding from donors so far was "not earmarked" for any programme in particular. Therefore funding for nutrition is available and is not as scarce as the six percent figure of earmarked funding suggests.]

“This could create another disaster on top of the current one,” she told IRIN.

The earthquake has increased the need for a specialized nutritional response, for example to provide counselling to breastfeeding women so as to counter the negative effect trauma sometimes has on lactation and to supply appropriate food sources to infants whose mothers have died or become separated from their children.

The rainy season – during which the risk of disease is increased – is due to begin in March, making nutritional support all the more urgent.

“Many children were chronically malnourished before the earthquake, but not acutely,” said Ververs. “This has now changed.”


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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