Original Research

The intersection of disability and food security: Perspectives of health and humanitarian aid workers

Candice A. Quarmby, Mershen Pillay
African Journal of Disability | Vol 7 | a322 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v7i0.322 | © 2018 Candice A. Quarmby, Mershen Pillay | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 October 2016 | Published: 30 April 2018

About the author(s)

Candice A. Quarmby, Disciplines of Audiology & Speech-Language Therapy, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Mershen Pillay, Discipline of Speech-Language Pathology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Background: Most people with disabilities the world over can be found in the Majority (or ‘economically developing’) World. This is also where most of the world’s hungry and malnourished are found. We argue that the intersectionality between disability and nutrition may best be understood through a food security framework, and we position all people living with disability, including those experiencing feeding and swallowing disabilities, as at risk for food insecurity, especially those living in humanitarian emergency contexts.

Objectives: This study aimed to explore and describe the knowledge and experience of humanitarian aid workers (HAWs) and health care professionals (HCPs) in food assistance contexts with regard to the nutrition and food security of people living with disabilities.

Method: In this exploratory, descriptive study, 16 participants with experience in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia participated in an online survey. Three survey participants with extensive experience were also interviewed. Data analysis involved descriptive statistics and thematic content analysis.

Results: Results revealed that participants had generally low levels of exposure to and experience with disability, including swallowing and feeding disorders.

Conclusions: Reduced knowledge of HAWs and HCPs regarding disability and the lack of professionals such as speech–language therapists, who manage disability-specific issues such as feeding and swallowing disorders, may affect the food security of people living with disabilities in food assistance contexts.


Disability; food security; feeding; swallowing; health care workers; humanitarian aid workers; speech-language therapy/therapy


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Crossref Citations

1. Food and nutrition security in persons with disabilities. A scoping review
Robyn Moore, Shakila Dada, Mohammad Naushad Emmambux, Alecia Samuels
Global Food Security  vol: 31  first page: 100581  year: 2021  
doi: 10.1016/j.gfs.2021.100581