5 Practical Reminders for Hunger Assessment

By Jeff Palmer, CEO on October 16, 2017 | Print

We’ve talked a lot about assessing hunger needs from the why, to the who, to the where. Today, we’re doing to discuss five very practical reminders for assessing hunger needs.

  1. Verify information from sources. One way to do this is focus group discussion among various groups. This is a way of cross-checking information from various sources. We can also do things like community transect walks where we go together with locals to actually see and verify the hunger needs.
  2. Consider local involvement. Can locals contribute to need in any way? It may be that they can’t in a massive, large scale way but there are little things they can and should do such as helping to identify the most vulnerable, organizing and participating in the actual distribution. Maybe they can even help in the packing of organizing of materials to be distributed. Local buy-in, if only participation, is a good way to ensure local ownership in the effort.
  3. Ask “Are people dying due to current hunger crisis?” This is a hard but necessary question. This helps determine the severity of the event and urgency of response. If there is death occurring, is the rate declining, steady, or elevating? Remember, even if there are no recorded or evident deaths, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a serious hunger event.
  4. Assess the availability of water. Is water readily available? Is it clean? While uncomfortable, people can live without food for several days. Water is actually more critical. Even if water is available, we need to make sure that it is healthy and potable.
  5. Look for signs of malnutrition. There are several ways to determine or document malnutrition:
    • Watch for visual signs of such as orange or light colored hair (for those with normally dark hair), distended bellies (especially in children), listless movement, low attention span, and general deteriorating physical health.
    • In children, a standard way to check malnourishment is the globally standard weight to height method. There are several tools online that give you a simple chart that will help you measure (utilizing a tape measure, comparing numbers to the chart) whether populations of children are undernourished and, in many cases, to what degree.
    • Another way to measure health is the simple mid-upper arm circumference method (MUAC). Again, this is a standard method that can be easily found online with charts and step-by-step procedures for conducting.

What are some other methods that you can think of for documenting hunger/undernourishment? Or what are some other considerations you can think of that would be helpful to our readers?