Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

A global organisation that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation..
Our purpose is clear: we work in partnership with a global community of humanitarian actors, researchers and innovators to improve the quality of humanitarian action and deliver better outcomes for people affected by crises.
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Why this focus area?

Recent years have seen record levels of rising acute food insecurity. This trend is likely to continue as the drivers of food insecurity persist – climate crisis, economic upheaval and acute and protracted conflicts around the world. Women, adolescent girls and children are particularly vulnerable to shocks that negatively impact livelihoods, incomes and food access, leading to worsened health and nutritional status. Children are particularly likely to suffer wasting in areas of acute food insecurity, with potentially long-term consequences for their physical and cognitive development. Preventing undernutrition is critical. 

Our work

Through our open research and innovation calls we have funded individual studies addressing aspects of nutrition and food insecurity. R2HC has also funded this work in a specialised Horn of Africa responsive call in 2017.  

However the scale of the current global food insecurity crisis led us to undertake a consultation process with key humanitarian actors, to identify possible areas where we could add value to food insecurity crises. This consultation identified a clear gap in evidence-based practice: the lack of comprehensive, practical guidance and tools to prevent undernutrition for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women in food insecure contexts. Our new programme of research aims to address this gap.

Our approach: Evidence-Based Prevention of Undernutrition

To strengthen the prevention of undernutrition in humanitarian settings, this programme of research will be implemented over five years with three distinct phases.

  1. 2023-2025 Phase 1: We have commissioned a partner, NutritionWorks, to conduct a review of the evidence to identify the most effective interventions that contribute to preventing malnutrition in our target groups.  They will group these interventions into “prevention packages” to be tested in Phase 2.
  2. 2025-2027 Phase 2: We will launch a call for proposals for academic-humanitarian partnerships to test the “prevention packages” in 8-10 different humanitarian settings over a 2-year period.
  3. 2028 Phase 3: A research team will be contracted to conduct a cross-country comparison of findings, with the aim of developing an undernutrition prevention model that can be integrated into global policy and guidelines, and adopted by those supporting women and children at risk of under-nutrition in food insecure settings.

Food Insecurity and Health

In direct response to an identified evidence-gap on the ground in the Horn of Africa we commissioned a scoping review. The review explored how malnutrition and food insecurity increases risks of disease, maternal and child morbidity and mortality, and violence.

Published in March 2023 the review highlights the need for a more collaborative approach between nutrition and health, and how each one supports the other in reducing vulnerability to disease and death among populations affected by crisis. The findings provide the evidence health actors need to advocate to donors for more funding, and to push for greater integration of health programming in the strategic response to food insecurity and malnutrition.  


As the global food insecurity situation worsens, this scoping review has assessed the evidence linking food insecurity, malnutrition, ill health and mortality among women and children under five in humanitarian contexts.

Read the Scoping Review

Related Resources from Elrha

Report Communicable disease (including infectious disease outbreaks), Ebola, Evidence Review, Health Systems & Services, Injury & Rehabilitation, Maternal and Child Health, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, Non communicable disease, Nutrition, Sexual and Reproductive Health

The Humanitarian Health Evidence Review

Peer Reviewed Evidence Review

Does the Humanitarian Sector Use Evidence-informed Standards? A Review of the 2011 Sphere Indicators for Wash, Food Security and Nutrition, and Health Action

Related Research Projects

Related Innovation Projects

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