NUTRITION NEWS: Simple but nutritious foods in times of disaster

The Philippines is one of the calamity-stricken countries in the world. It is common that the country is visited every year by strong typhoons that wrought destruction to communities and brought miseries and sufferings to the Filipinos. An example is Typhoon Yolanda. Due to the heavy rains and strong winds brought by Typhoon Yolanda, many houses were destroyed; roads, bridges, school buildings were damaged; residents in low-lying, coastal barangays were forced to evacuate to higher and safer grounds, leaving their homes and belongings to the mercy of the floods and landslides.

The Philippines is also located within the Pacific Ring of Fire and it is imperiled with other disasters such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions. As of now, the Philvocs is strictly monitoring Mayon Volcano as it shows signs of erupting.

Survival therefore is a fundamental struggle for people who become victims of calamities and disasters.

One of the major concerns of provincial, city, and municipal risk reduction management councils is food and nutrition.

The kinds of food given during emergencies vary with the severity of the situation. A few hours to two days after the onset of an emergency, the people experience stress, anxiety and shock. At this stage, easy-to-serve quick energy foods high in calories, such as starchy roots and tubers, bread, instant soups, and juices should be given.

After the initial onset of disaster to rehabilitation, foods should be simple, nourishing and hygienically prepared.

Water, calories from energy-giving foods, protein from fish, meat and poultry for body repair, thiamin, the “morale” vitamin to help minimize nervous tension, and salt to conserve water in the body should be provided. Dehydration should be avoided at this stage.

rinking water should be a special concern during disasters. Unsafe drinking water has been the most frequent cause of food-borne and water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea and cholera. Water must be boiled for at least 10 minutes, especially if the water source is not from approved public water systems.

Easy-to-serve and easy-to-hold one-dish hot meals such as champorado with tuyo, macaroni soup with milk, and mackerel with misua and rice should be considered.

As the rehabilitation starts, the diet should meet the recommended energy and nutrient intakes (RENI) of each age group. Foods should include calories, proteins, vitamins and minerals contained in the usual Filipino diet. These are rice, fish or meat, fruits and vegetables.

All throughout the stages of disaster, priority must be given to infants, pregnant and lactating mothers, the sick and wounded, children and elderly. During the intermediate and rehabilitation stages, special consideration is also given to rescue workers who need to replenish their energy and build resistance.

Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) has developed several food products that are affordable and convenient for emergency and disasters such as compressed food – a ready-to-eat legume-based nutritious food with milk, vegetable fat and sugar; Instant Cream Soups – these products are made from combinations of vegetables and legumes with spices and flavors. They come in two flavors: Instant Squash Cream Soup and Instant Mongo Cream Soup. They are in powdered form, thus, are convenient to prepare; Instant Noodles with Squash in Cups – an instant noodle enriched with beta-carotene naturally present in squash. Addition of boiling water to the product will give nutritious, hot chicken-flavored noodle soup.

It is necessary that during disasters, simple but nutritious foods be provided to the victims so that less people will get sick and malnourished. This helps relieve the conditions of casualties and maintain the morale of people. Attention then must be given to foods provided to lessen their distress about their situation.#