10 Vulnerable Populations during Hunger Responses

By Jeff Palmer, CEO on October 9, 2017 | Print

Population segmentation helps us find the most vulnerable groups and places for hunger responses. In most large-scale hunger events, the government and intergovernmental agencies (such as UN, WFP, etc.) will generally take the lead and bring major resources to the table. In these cases, we must be wise and look for overlooked and underserved groups or population segments. Some of the groups that we can be on the lookout for are those such as:

  1. HIV + persons. These people are usually overlooked because they don’t have the health or energy to be a part of community meetings. Try to use existing local networks to find them (home based care, ART delivery networks, local clinics/hospitals). Be careful to mitigate impact due to stigma issues.
  2. Infants and Children (0 – 6 years approx. range). These are some of the most vulnerable individuals to hunger especially in areas of the developing world where they already live on little nutritional margin. And, even though most every group (both large and small) focus on children, oftentimes they are still overlooked. A good survey of children using standard nutrition measurements usually helps us find hidden groups of children.
  3. Orphans. Oftentimes, they do not have an adult to represent them in community meetings or larger group assessments.
  4. Widows. For the same reason above, these can be an overlooked and most needy population segment.
  5. Those with signs of malnutrition. This may sound obvious, but some in the hunger event have possibly have experienced more hunger and more prolonged exposure to hunger. They can usually be identified by visual symptoms (discussed later).
  6. The elderly. Again, this segment is sometimes overlooked in assessments because they may not be able to attend community meetings or have the voice when distributions are made.
  7. Pregnant and lactating mothers. We do want to take care to watch out for this group. Usually, there are special supplements we will add to food distributions to help such as extra protein for mom, vitamins, and even infant formula for their babies.
  8. The unemployed. An often overlooked vulnerable group, but tricky to determine. A pre-existing poverty and lack of income can be amplified by a subsequent hunger event.
  9. The disabled. Again, this group may be unable to attend community meetings.
  10. Whole villages or community segments. In a large-scaled hunger event, it might make sense to select a key, strategic community to help… realizing, again, we probably can’t help everyone.

There are other population segments that can be overlooked that you and I might look for in hunger assessments than the ones mentioned. Can you think of any to add to the list?