Humanitarian interventions for food/nutrition support in Ethiopia

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Helpdesk Query:

Conduct a review of the state of the evidence for interventions that are designed for food/nutrition support, with a focus on Ethiopia


There are many evidence gaps in the delivery of humanitarian food/nutrition aid. Evaluation of the relative cost‐effectiveness of dietary response projects is confounded by the fact that different projects can have different objectives (USAID, 2015). Ethiopia has made progress in meeting emergency needs, including through the Government of Ethiopia-led Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), which is a combination of food and cash assistance.

Results show that the average household food insecurity gap (incidences when households cannot meet their food needs) dropped from 3.6 months to 2.3 months (The World Bank Group, 2013). A qualitative survey in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia, revealed that receipt of PSNP food-aid was linked socio-demographic attributes, among which marital status, age and size of family were decisive factors (Adazi et al., 2017). There is no evidence that PSNP reduces chronic or acute undernutrition (Berhane et al., 2017).

Realistic planning for a nutrition intervention is a critical component of implementation, yet effective approaches have been poorly documented (Schauer et al., 2017). Those that are documented and published are self-evaluations (e.g. USAID (2017), UNICEF (2017b) and World Food Programme Ethiopia (WFP Ethiopia, 2017). Government data is also a major source: the US Government’s ‘Feed the Future’ initiative reports that it contributed to reductions in the number of underweight (low weight for age) children by 17%, child stunting (short for age) by 4%, and child wasting (low weight for height) by more than 30% from 2013 to 2015 in Ethiopia (USAID Feed the Future, 2016).

However, the change in prevalence of stunting for Ethiopia was not statistically significant, meaning the margin of error of the survey sample was too great to conclusively demonstrate change. Some published estimates of need were made before the Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD), which is conducted to facilitate early planning and resource mobilisation for donors.

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