The humanitarian and development nexus - bridging the nutrition gap in Cameroon
The nutrition community has separated child wasting and stunting along the humanitarian aid and development aid divide. This has led to a detrimental investment disconnect in the sector. Traditionally humanitarian actors have provided much needed relief in a specific setting, but the aftermath of a shock can last many years, with the Global Acute Malnutrition rates persisting long after the emergency ends. To make meaningful progress in the nutrition agenda, the development and humanitarian communities must work together to harmonise their efforts, policies, strategies, and investment to mitigate measures to ensure that acute malnutrition does not lead to more chronic implication.
In the wake of the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA) held in May, there is a renewed determination to achieve the Global Nutrition Targets. At the WHA, member states acknowledged the progress to date, particularly in reducing stunting and chronic malnutrition, and serving the vulnerable, especially women and children. However, in a fragile setting, their nutrition and well-being are regularly compromised, and evidence shows that hunger rates are on the rise, largely due to conflict and climate change. In addition, some children experience multiple bouts of wasting during a given year. These young persons have a mortality risk that is 11 times higher than those who are not malnourished.
Greater programming efficiency and effectiveness can be realised if both forms (wasting and stunting) of undernutrition are jointly tackled in settings that experience shocks. Building resilience may seem obvious but it warrants a radical shift in how we coordinate, plan and implement programmes. There is a need for harmonized programming between the humanitarian and development world.
Bridging the gap between emergency humanitarian aid and long term development is long overdue. This is what SNV aims to do in Cameroon, where the European Union (EU) supports the Project de renforcement de la resilience des populations des regions septentrionales du Cameroun” (PRESEC). The project is led by SNV Cameroon in partnership with local NGOs: CADEPI and APROSPEN. The team works with local government structures and partners to build the resilience and improve the nutrition of vulnerable populations, including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees. PRESEC works with the community health structures to promote the prevention of acute malnutrition, and to support outpatient treatment in the community. Community health workers encourage households to diversify their food production, with support from agriculture extension. Together health and agriculture, with the support of PRESEC, are working on solutions to mitigate the seasonal shortages of food, improve sanitation, safe water supply, and to build livelihoods. For the infants who are most-at-risk, PRESEC works closely with communities, caregivers and mothers to screen malnutrition using MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference), and to support early detection and treatment. Home and community-based counselling on feeding and care practices are the cornerstone of the behaviour change communication strategy of this project. This programme integrates more sustainable results compared to previous programmes which have focused on short-term solutions.
This is key for countries like Cameroon to survive disasters and shocks. More than this, responding to the link between the emergency and development approach will safeguard children and support people on their path to self-reliance and dignity. Our children need to be well nourished and to be resilient in the face of disease, disasters and other global crises.
References:  Wasting is acute malnutrition which reflects the humanitarian context, whereas stunting is chronic malnutrition, which reflects development context.  State of Food Security and Nutrition (SOFI) 2017