Nicki Connell: MBE for Services to Emergency Nutrition Crisis Abroad

Nicki Connell (MSc Public Health Nutrition, 2008) was awarded an MBE in the 2020 New Year Honours list.  She was nominated due to her outstanding service to aid disadvantaged individuals globally. We at LSHTM would like to offer her our huge congratulations and share her story, which led to this momentous recognition.

In 2009, Nicki embarked on her humanitarian career in Bangladesh, working as Emergency Ops Nutrition Programme Manager for Action Again Hunger. Here she was responsible for developing nutrition programmes in an protracted refugee context following the Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) approach. Following this, she worked for GOAL in Pakistan, South Sudan, and eventually Ireland where she ensured technical support for quality nutrition programmes for a variety of countries in need. Her mantra was to find ways for the local population to support themselves. She was the driving force in raising £20,000 for one of her colleagues to study health promotion in the UK. Her colleague is now in East Africa utilising their expertise to support others. Furthermore, Nicki’s career took her to Yemen where she worked with local government officials to train them on infant nutrition. She found herself spending many nights in underground bunkers, listening to the sound of war above her. She spent many years working for Save the Children US where she was responsible for their emergency nutrition vision, strategy and operational plan responding to many humanitarian crises.

Nicki has kept her strong connections with LSHTM and since 2013 has been working closely with Dr Marko Kerac (Programme Director, Nutrition for Global Health) on the Management of At-risk Mothers and Infants (MAMI) research. They have been working to establish how better to identify infants at risk of failing to thrive and, once identified, how best to manage them, particularly in an outpatient setting. Marko was Technical Advisor to a piece of research she was leading during her time in Bangladesh. She has also been teaching on the Nutrition in Emergencies module at LSHTM since 2014. As of 2019, her current employer, the Eleanor Crook Foundation, where she works as Technical Director, is funding Marko and a group of partners to conduct a randomised control trial in Ethiopia on the MAMI work. This is a four-year project to the value of $2.5million, which Nicki is excited to continue.

Nicki reminisced on her time at LSHTM and told us her thoughts on being awarded the MBE: “I think fondly of my time at LSHTM especially considering that’s really where it all started. I am also so delighted to still have connections with LSHTM in lots of ways, and long may it continue. I remain dedicated to my work of improving the nutritional status of vulnerable people around the world, and there is still so much to do. This award is also for all my colleagues, past and present, that every single day continue to do an amazing job in some of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world. It’s also for my parents that have never stopped me and have always supported me in everything I do.”

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