Helen Young

Helen YoungResearch Director and Professor
Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science

Working with Feinstein Since: 1998
Based in: London, England

Helen Young directs Feinstein’s Research Program on Nutrition, Livelihoods, and Conflict. She has led several multi-year research programs in the Horn of Africa, especially in Sudan and Chad, involving national and international partners and multi-disciplinary teams. Her research on building resilience of people in conflict-affected regions aims to bridge the gap between local realities, policy, practice, and research. She is committed to fostering professional networks that span academia, civil society, government, and non-government organizations to promote shared understanding of complex problems.

In Sudan her research tracking pastoralist livestock migrations in real-time seized the imagination of senior policy makers and has influenced politicians, policies, and resource allocations in Sudan. This work provided scientific evidence of the environmental principles underpinning pastoralists’ successful adaptation to the unpredictable distribution of rains and pasture in this semi-arid region and the rationale for pastoralist mobility.

For 25 years Helen has researched nutrition in emergencies, influencing UN technical guidelines, the IPC nutrition and mortality indicators, Sphere Minimum Standards of Disaster Response, and INGO practical guides. Helen has been the co-editor of the journal Disasters since 1997 and is on the Editorial Board of the Food and Nutrition Bulletin. She is an active member of the Action Contre le Faim (ACF) International Scientific Committee and a member of the Advisory Group to the Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute. She is the author of more than 60 publications.

Prior to joining Feinstein, Helen worked with Oxfam GB as an Emergency Nutritionist and Senior Nutritional Advisor in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi, North Korea, South Sudan, and Sudan. She has also worked as a nutrition consultant with the World Food Programme, Unicef, UNHCR, FAO and the World Bank.

Helen received her B.Sc. in nutrition and food science from Oxford Polytechnic, and her Ph.D. in food science from the Council for National Academic Awards, UK.

She lives in Twickenham, England with her partner Rob, her two sons, and their dog.

Research Interests:
  • The drivers of acute malnutrition and their seasonal patterns.
  • The adaptation and transformation of farming and pastoralist systems in conflict affected semi-arid regions.
  • Innovative mixed methods for promoting shared learning and building capacities, through multi-level research partnerships.
Regional Focus:

Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, and Ethiopia

Most Cited Books and Articles:
  • Young, Helen, and Karen Jacobsen. “No Way Back? Adaptation and Urbanization of IDP Livelihoods in the Darfur Region of Sudan.” Development and Change 44, no. 1 (2013): 125–45. https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12003.
  • Young , Helen, and Susanne Jaspers . “Review of Nutrition and Mortality Indicators for the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Reference Levels and Decision-Making. A Study Commissioned by: The SCN Task Force on Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation, and The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Global Partners.,” 2009.
  • Young , Helen, Abdul Monmin Osman , Yacob Aklilu , Rebecca Dale , Babiker Badri , and Abdul Jabbar Abdullah Fuddle . Rep. Darfur – Livelihoods under Siege. Medford , MA: Feinstein International Famine Center, 2005.
  • Young , Helen, Annalies Borrel , and Peter Salama . “Public Nutrition from an Approach to a Discipline: Concern’s Nutrition Case Studies in Complex Emergencies.” Disasters 23, no. 4 (1999): 326–42. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-7717.00122.
  • Lautze, Sue, Yacob Aklilu, Angela Raven-Roberts , Helen Young , Girma Kebede, and Jennifer Leaning . Rep. Risk and Vulnerability in Ethiopia. Medford , MA : Feinstein International Center , 2003.


Most Recent External Publications:

News Items

Helen Young joins call for action to support civil society in Sudan
August 17, 2023

Sudan and its people have been plunged into a devastating crisis, the intensity and scale of which Sudan has never experienced before. Over 4 million people have been displaced in…

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Feinstein team leads workshop in Kenya investigating malnutrition
May 25, 2023

As part of the Nawiri program in Kenya, Helen Young, Elizabeth Stites, Anastasia Marshak, and Achiba Gargule led a three-day Analysis Workshop in Kenya. The workshop brought together Nawiri partners…

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Feinstein Research Projects

Early Warning Systems and Humanitarian Response

This project aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of populations in pastoral areas of the Sudano-Sahel and Greater Horn of Africa by ensuring that early warning systems and humanitarian action are better attuned and more responsive to the needs and realities of these communities.

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Acute Malnutrition Seasonality and Climate

This project interrogates widely-held assumptions about when acute malnutrition is at its highest in dryland countries.

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Feinstein Publications

A synthesis of research and learning on persistent global acute malnutrition in the Kenyan arid and semi-arid lands
Thumbnail of Synthesis Report cover
By Helen Young | February 2022

This report synthesizes the Nawiri research findings up to the end of September 2021 in relation to the conceptual framework for addressing acute malnutrition in northern Kenya.

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Brief 3: Participation in Integrated Natural Resource Management Projects: Reflections from North Darfur

This brief explores community perspectives on integrated natural resource management (INRM) and aims to understand the incentives of natural resource users within Taadoud II areas to participate in INRM interventions.

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