The importance of adequate nutrition for prevention of morbidity, mortality and impairment has been well established. The subject of disability and its relationship with nutrition is not currently a well-defined research or policy area. What is known is that as a result of living in poverty, persons with disabilities are more susceptible to poor nutrition and as a result are more at risk of acquiring secondary impairments. Other risk factors include the discrimination faced by persons with disabilities, which can result in children or adults with disabilities receiving less food than their peers within a household or institutional setting. Poor access to education and health services can lead to less access to information on nutrition.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) requires that governments provide an adequate standard of living for persons with disabilities (Article 28), including access to adequate food. Persons with disabilities are also particularly vulnerable in humanitarian emergencies (Article 11), and their needs must be considered in food distribution programs.

Resources in this section focus on providing general information relating to nutrition, particularly in the first few years of life, as well as examples of actions that can be taken to better include persons with disabilities in nutrition programs.

ICED, Kenya Red Cross, CBM (2014) Disability and Malnutrition in Turkana Kenya: A Summary Report for Stakeholders and Policy

This report highlights findings from a study exploring the relationship between malnutrition and children with disability in the context of humanitarian emergencies. It provides useful examples on the intersection between nutrition and childhood disability to inform evidence based policy and programming. The study was conducted in Turkana, Kenya and included both qualitative and quantitative methods to enable comparison between children with disability, their siblings and matched controls of children without disability in neighbouring houses. Key findings highlight that children with disability are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition, especially within an area of food insecurity; more effort is required to include children with disability within food supplementation programmes; and school based programmes alone may be inadequate to meet this need, particularly as children with disability are often excluded from education.

The Sphere Project (2011) The Sphere Handbook

This chapter is website-based and drawn from the humanitarian charter that sets out the minimum standards to guide quality and accountability of humanitarian response, including the right to food security and nutrition. The section specifically identifies persons with disabilities as a vulnerable group in disaster-affected populations. It sets out key areas that donors and implementing partner organisations should address to reach the minimum standards for vulnerabilities and capacities in food security and nutrition, including optimising the participation of persons with disabilities.

UNICEF (2013) Background note for the global partnership on children with disabilities: Inclusive nutrition for children and mothers with disabilities

This background note provides a snapshot of the relationship between nutrition and disability, and highlights broad areas where donors, governments, and UN agencies can influence the global agenda to promote inclusive nutrition for children and mothers with disabilities.

Humanity & Inclusion Source: Key list resources on nutrition and child health

Source provides practical resources to assist practitioners at the program level to address nutrition and child health, including guidelines for infant feeding. The list of documents contains helpful information for those who wish to gain grounding in the knowledge base regarding nutrition and child health and development.

Groce N, Kerac N, Farkas N, Schultink W and Berman Bieler R (2013) Inclusive nutrition for children and adults with disability

This article is a call to action to development practitioners to recognise the important associations between nutrition and disability, poverty and human rights. It briefly describes the evidence supporting the links between these development priorities and recommends the twin-track approach of including disability in mainstream nutrition programs, as well as developing disability-specific nutrition programs. This resource assists donors in supporting government to pursue a comprehensive approach to addressing nutrition for all.

UNICEF (2013) Stronger together: Nutrition-disability links and synergies

This briefing note provides key recommendations to international agencies on how to integrate nutrition and disability in policies, plans and services.

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Picture of a women giving a young boy a vitamin A capsule in Nigeria.

Photo: Keith McAllister, 2008

Malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies can cause or exacerbate disability. Vitamin A deficiency is one cause of avoidable blindness. Here a child in Nigeria is receiving a Vitamin A capsule as part of an effort to combat avoidable blindness. Copyright: CBM