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Estimated Mean per Capita Energy Requirements for Planning Emergency Food Aid Rations 1 Background ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND SCOPE The Committee on International Nutrition (CIN) was asked by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to recommend an estimated mean per capita energy requirement (termed EMPCER by the CIN) for populations of refugees and displaced persons that could be used to expedite food relief in situations in which nothing is known except the approximate number of people to be fed. The stated intention of USAID is to be use this value to calculate the amount of food required to meet all of the energy needs of such populations. In this report, the committee shows how the EMPCER can be calculated and presents a reasonable single estimate for a wide range of equally justifiable EMPCERs. It is important to note that the committee was not asked to review the many other factors that must be taken into consideration when translating energy needs into food recommendations. These factors have been described elsewhere, most recently in the guidelines prepared by USAID (1993) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 1992). They include: the proportion of energy to be supplied as protein and fat, the risk of bacterial contamination, ease of preparation and storage, the micronutrient content of the foods and dietary diversity, the acceptability of the food to the population, and special foods for infants and children. In addition, the committee was not asked to address how the quantity of food aid that would be needed to account for biological requirements might have to be adjusted for other factors such as selling or bartering of relief foods to acquire locally available foods to improve the range and quality of the diet or
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Estimated Mean per Capita Energy Requirements for Planning Emergency Food Aid Rations cooking fuel and other necessities for living. These issues vary by situation and can be used to adjust the committee's EMPCER when such information becomes available. MOTIVATION FOR THE SCOPE CHOSEN The request to the committee was to recommend a single value that meets the average energy requirement of populations. That value would be used when making decisions about the immediate purchasing and shipping of food for use as emergency rations when all one knows is the number of persons affected. In such a case, one need only multiply the the average energy requirement (the EMPCER) by the number of persons to be fed to derive the total energy needs of the target population. The true mean per capita energy requirement can vary widely under different circumstances because it is affected substantially by local factors, the most important of which are ascertainable but often not known to those who must make decisions concerning purchasing and shipping of food. Thus, the committee understands that having a single universally agreed-upon EMPCER could expedite relief activities because there would be no delay involved in justifying this figure (and no time lost in clarifying the justification) for each new request for emergency food. As knowledge about a local situation becomes clearer, the original estimated per capita energy need must be modified. Thus, the committee does not expect its EMPCER to be used to calculate food needs in subsequent requests for longer-term food aid for a population. Collecting the kinds of information that can be used to adjust the per capita energy requirement through an efficient monitoring system is an important component of food relief (CDC, 1992). It is also important to note that the committee's EMPCER may not be the correct figure for use with refugee and displaced persons in situations in which some foods may be available locally. In such cases, the estimated energy requirement may need to be adjusted downwards to avoid the unnecessary distribution of food and the resulting reduction of relief resources possibly available for other emergency situations. Whatever number is used to estimate per capita energy need, it should be the same across all agencies and governments in order to expedite food relief. It is also important that this figure be compatible with the scientific knowledge of human biology and behavior. However, the reasonable range of scientifically justified figures for mean per capita energy needs is approximately 1,900 to 2,500 kcal (7.9 to 10.5 MJ)/d (see pages 5–17). Within this range, the usefulness of having a single figure to expedite relief operations may outweigh the subtleties of selecting among various scientifically plausible assumptions that underlie the calculation of this range of EMPCER values. We present the different assumptions that are the basis for the committee's EMPCER, and we illustrate the
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Estimated Mean per Capita Energy Requirements for Planning Emergency Food Aid Rations magnitude of change in that figure as specific assumptions are modified. This is, in part, intended to permit those involved in negotiating an internationally agreed-upon figure to concentrate discussion on those factors that affect the estimate most strongly, such as physical activity level (PAL). Equally important, some data that are easily collected in early assessments (e.g., likely physical activity level or impending cold weather) could be used to adjust even the initial estimates of food requirements. The figures used for these initial adjustments must also be agreed upon worldwide. Finally, and importantly, actual experience needs to be taken into account in future use of different EMPCER values. For instance, it might turn out that there is almost always some supply of locally available food that cannot be ascertained in advance. Such a supply would decrease emergency food needs below the level indicated by the EMPCER. The current use of 1,900 kcal seems to be based as much on past anecdotal reports in which food relief was believed to meet population food needs adequately as on the kinds of calculations performed by the committee and presented below. The committee had no information about past experiences with different single estimates and no objective evidence that these resulted in adequate provisioning of food. It is important to obtain such information in the future. At present, no single number has been agreed upon internationally. However, a consensus algorithm is being developed that takes into account many of the points discussed in this report (John Mason, Technical Secretary, United Nations' Administrative Committee on Coordination/Subcommittee on Nutrition, personal communication, 1994; Schofield, 1994). The committee feels strongly that nothing in this report should interfere with the international development of a universally agreed-upon algorithm or figure for estimating food needs of populations of refugees and displaced persons.
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