In November 2020, Nicaragua was hit by two major hurricanes, Eta and Iota. Three million people and 60% of the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCN) were affected. In the initial months after the disaster, nutrition was not a priority focus of the emergency response efforts. Among the most vulnerable groups affected by this were pregnant women, infants, and children under 5. Before the hurricane, 17.3% of children under 5 suffered from stunting, and 2.2% experienced wasting in Nicaragua. This situation has been compounded by a lack of nutrition interventions following the hurricanes.
UNICEF was one of the primary agencies providing support to children and families affected by the hurricanes. In realizing that the after-effects of the hurricanes were causing devastating effects on the food security of affected people and putting the lives of the most nutritionally vulnerable communities at even greater risk, UNICEF Nicaragua requested support from the GNC Technical Alliance. The request was to help UNICEF build the capacity of their local partners to incorporate Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) and Infant and Young Child Feeding in emergencies (IYCF-E) activities into their emergency response to address the growing nutritional needs caused by the hurricane.
To provide technical support the GNC Technical Alliance identified a regionally based advisor, Andrea Garcia from Save the Children Colombia to support IYCF-E and Elena Rivero, an international advisor from the GNC Technical Alliance Consultant Roster to support the CMAM aspects of the request.
In the 8 weeks, Andrea and Elena had to provide a tremendous amount of work including mapping partners’ capacity in nutrition programming (CMAM and IYCF-E), creating operational manuals and training guides, providing training and workshops, and most importantly establishing and coordinating Technical Working Groups on CMAM and IYCF-E.
Reflecting on the experience, Elena highlighted; ‘although the physical presence of the local NGOs in the affected area was of huge added value because nutrition had not previously been a priority, none of the local NGOs had experience with nutrition programming in emergencies.’’ As such their capacity, in nutrition programming, needed to be built from the ground up.
There were also many successes. For the first time at the national level, a CMAM technical working group was formed, and new skills were acquired in the management of acute malnutrition; a huge milestone for Nicaragua.
Elena said: ‘’Despite many difficulties, the whole process was kept a very agile and efficient speed and in general, the willingness and motivation on the part of UNICEF and partners was remarkable so that everything could be done on time.’’