To assess the applicability and use of infant nutrition and health indicators during emergencies.
Indicators recommended by international health and nutrition organisations for assessing infant feeding practice were compiled and analysed to evaluate their consistency and applicability for use in surveys of emergency-affected populations. These indicators included measures of breast-feeding status, use of artificial feeding, anthropometric status and morbidity. Health and nutrition surveys performed on the resident or refugee population of Kosovo during the years 1996–1999 were then reviewed and the use of infant feeding and morbidity indicators were compared.
A number of recommended indicators exist for assessing infant and child feeding practice which have been generated by different international organisations. A comparison of these indicators revealed a number of inconsistencies, both in target population and measurement method. Their use during the Kosovo crisis was likewise inconsistent and prevented conclusions being drawn about the effectiveness of the international response in protecting infant health and nutrition.
Standard indicators need to be agreed and promoted for use during surveys of emergency-affected populations. Failure to do so will lead to a continued inability to monitor the health and nutrition of infants at a population level during international relief operations.