Nutrition and Food Security

Nutrition is the foundation of life. Malnutrition, both chronic and acute, contributed to 3.1 million deaths of children under 5 last year –more than a third of all deaths in that age group. It also carries enormous social and economic costs, leaving more than 165 million children with stunted growth, compromised cognitive development and poor physical health. Childhood malnutrition reduces an individual’s future earnings by at least 20% and robs some of the world’s poorest countries of at least 8% of GDP. The tragedy is that malnutrition is both preventable and treatable if tackled in time.

International Medical Corps’ approach to nutrition is holistic and includes both the prevention and treatment of malnutrition. We work to strengthen nutrition programs at national, local, and community levels in some of the world’s most challenging environments. Our prevention strategies focus on vulnerable groups, including: adolescents, pregnant and lactating women and children under 2. Our curative strategies focus on children under 5 and pregnant and lactating women.

Our food security and livelihood programs assist these vulnerable groups in growing nutrient rich vegetables and improving their meal diversification.


  • We have administered Nutrition and Food Security programs in some of the globe’s most challenging environments, including: Afghanistan’s remote Nuristan Province, Sudan’s Darfur Region, South-Central Somalia, South-Sudan, and Lhaj Governorate in southern Yemen.


Our approach to nutrition is holistic and includes both the prevention and treatment of malnutrition.


Monley's Story: A Survivor 5 Years Later

Five-year-old Monley was pulled from the rubble of the Haiti earthquake after being trapped for an astonishing 8 days. As most of the world was losing those final glimmers of hope that survivors of the earthquake in Haiti could still be rescued, Monley’s uncle, Garry, uncovered him from under the collapsed home that had killed Monley’s parents.


Coverage Monitoring Network (CMN) Project

  • International Medical Corps is a member of the Coverage Monitoring Network (CMN) Project, a joint initiative with Action Against Hunger, Save the Children, Concern Worldwide, Helen Keller International, and Valid International. Funded by ECHO and USAID/OFDA, the CMN project aims to increase coverage monitoring globally, particularly in Africa. It aims to identify, analyze, and share lessons learned to improve community-based management of acute malnutrition policy across areas with a high prevalence of acute malnutrition.


Responding to Malnutrition

International Medical Corps has a strong history of responding to nutrition needs in emergencies starting with the 1992 Somalia Famine. International Medical Corps malnutrition treatment evolved from a strictly center-based approach in the 1990s to a community-based approach using the best practice approach of Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) model to manage moderate and severe acute malnutrition. The CMAM model provides:

  • Community outreach and mobilization for nutrition education, and early detection and prompt referral of malnourished children to available services
  • Minimal inpatient care for severely malnourished children with medical complications
  • Outpatient care for severely malnourished children with no medical complications to reduce:
    • Time needed for recovery
    • Burden on the mother
    • Cost of running an inpatient program
    • Exposure to other diseases that can weaken their immunity
  • Supplementary feeding for moderately malnourished children to prevent children from becoming severely malnourished and needing more intensive treatment
Preventing Malnutrition

International Medical Corps places an emphasis on preventing malnutrition. Prevention not only reduces the cost of programs, but more importantly protects children from the devastating long-term effects of malnutrition. Without proper nutrition, which includes all the necessary micronutrients, a child’s physical and mental development is stunted. This in turn impacts his or her potential to become a fully functioning member of society. International Medical Corps malnutrition programs focus on the period from conception through the 23rd month of a child's life - the "1000-day window of opportunity" - as a critical opportunity for preventing stunting and physical and mental disabilities associated with malnutrition. We provide a combination of growth monitoring, nutrition education and individualized counseling and micronutrient supplementation through health facilities and as part of our ante and postnatal care, infant checkups and community outreach. Our nutrition education and counseling promotes healthy pregnancies and infant and young child feeding practices that include exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate introduction of complementary food to ensure healthy growth at the fetal stage, during infancy and early childhood.

To reinforce nutrition messages and create behavior change in the community, International Medical Corps works with local communities to develop peer support groups including the Care Group model, mother-to-mother groups, and the Men as Partners approach. Care Groups are led by local female volunteers trained by International Medical Corps that meet on a regular basis with mothers and their young children. The goals of these community-based behavior change interventions are to:

  • Prevent malnutrition by disseminating nutrition, health, family planning and hygiene information
  • Improve mother/child interaction through methods like infant stimulation
  • Empower mothers and fathers, and their community to take responsibility for the growth and development of their children

Mother Care Groups improve behavior change, bring down costs per beneficiary, and build a sustainable community-level health promotion structure. Health and nutritional improvement cannot be ensured unless communities are aware of and utilize available health services. In addition, most of the decision-making regarding critical influential behaviors occurs in the home. Thus, International Medical Corps targets health facilities, community leaders, households and individuals to bring positive and lasting changes in attitudes, knowledge and behaviors.

Food Security

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. In addition, food security encompasses the availability, access, use and stability of nutritious food.

International Medical Corps’ food security programs focus on empowering communities and especially women to provide nutritious foods for their families. The programs include support for home gardens to increase dietary and micro nutrition diversity of available foods for families; design and piloting of household food storage capacity so harvested food is properly stored, decreasing food losses and ensuring that families have food to last them; distribution of seeds and tools to help families produce their own food; water projects that assist families in irrigating their gardens; and emergency food distributions for poor families so they do not have to sell assets to purchase food.


For nearly 30 years, International Medical Corps has provided critical health services and improved the nutritional status of millions of people in need. In the face of conflict or natural disasters vulnerable populations deplete their physical assets‚ livestock, seeds, and household goods to survive. They struggle to pay for food, medicine, clothing and other goods critical to living a healthy life.

International Medical Corps' mission is to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacities. To help communities move from relief to self-reliance and provide access to sustainable, quality health care, International Medical Corps understands the importance of improving livelihoods. We do this by rebuilding, expanding and diversifying assets, including human assets‚ knowledge and skills through education and training to create an income stream for households that permits them to defray the cost of improved health services.

International Medical Corps’ approach to livelihood support in emergencies takes three forms, each with a medical and non-medical component: 1) cash for work; 2) skills training; and 3) materials or resource support. For our cash for work programs, International Medical Corps often hires local health professionals to fill critical gaps or local men and women as community health workers, who are instrumental in relaying health messages to their communities. During emergencies, International Medical Corps also hires local workers to rehabilitate health clinics, schools or other community centers that have been damaged in the disaster.

As a critical part of our livelihood support strategy, International Medical Corps provides skills training to both health professionals and people working in sectors that have been identified through needs assessments as having potential for earning income. In non-health sectors, these skills trainings are varied according to market needs, including agriculture and farming, animal husbandry, light industry, tailoring, baking, hospitality, hairdressing, etc. International Medical Corps also provides material and financial support to local businesses. In most cases, this support is paid forward to the community through distribution of products to poor families or cash that is paid back into a revolving fund that is in turn loaned to another business.


Assessment of Adolescent Girl Nutrition, Dietary Practices, and Roles in Zimbabwe

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Case Study on Adolescent Inclusion in the Care Group Approach - the Nigeria Experience

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Care Groups in Emergencies: Evidence on the Use of Care Groups and Peer Support Groups in Emergency Settings

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Recommendations for using care groups in emergency settings

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Nutrition and Food Security Overview PDF

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Wolayta Ethiopia Program Brief - October 2016

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