Senior Regional Programme Advisor for United Nations WFP
Areas of interest: Public Health, Nutrition, Food Security, Assessments, Protection and international relations
As senior nutritionist in UNHCR HQ for the past several years, Rita has been involved in most major emergencies during the 90s and has either instigated or been involved in some of the most important developments in the emergency food and nutrition sector. Working with governments has been enormously challenging and establishing new programmes at the beginning of an emergency is always arduous. But the one thing that motivates Rita is watching children die because an intervention is too late or inadequate. Over the years Rita has witnessed numerous developments and changes. She feels that there are now more groups networking, greater consensus on issues and more informed policies. There is also a greater emphasis on food security, which places general ration programmes more in the domain of nutritionists whereas before it was strictly seen as –logistics–.When asked what inhibits development and progress Rita explains that in her opinion “people make or break everything, if the right person is in the position progress will be natural, conversely the wrong person will inhibit development”. Most of the ineffective co-ordination that Rita has seen in the field has been because the wrong person was doing the job.
Rita has always overcome problems of interagency friction by concentrating on the technical aspects of her work. She was instrumental in the formation of the Inter Agency Group and the Emergency Nutrition Network.
Rita has worked in the DPRK 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2009, and twice in 2010. She headed food security assessments and nutrition surveys in 1998, 2002, 2009. The most recent one was a Crop and Food Security Assesment jointly with FAO.
Read Food Shortages and nutrition in North Korea Lancet, by Rita Bhatia and Andrew Thorne-Lyman.