Bahr-el-Ghazal Nutritionists Meet

Nutritionists from six NGOs working in Bahr-El-Ghazal, South Sudan, met in Lokichoggio in August 1998 to act on their mounting concern over the management of nutrition responses to the current crisis. Signatories to the resulting document (20/8/98) recognised the substantial efforts already made by agencies to address the crisis. In particular, the quantity and quality of the WFP general ration had improved and distributions were now better organised, while the UNICEF supported measles campaign has reduced mortality risk among the malnourished. The nutritionists also identified room for improvement in the OLS (Operation Lifeline Sudan) operations in Bahr-el-Ghazal in the following areas:

General food distribution

In spite of improvements in the general ration there was still a need to plug food gaps until the next harvest at the end of the year and maybe even longer in some areas. Furthermore, general ration targeting needed to be both refined and informed by food economy data and information from NGOs

Selective feeding programming

Concern was expressed regarding nutritional needs assessment methodologies and the way in which data are being used. Though recognising that it is difficult to conduct standard nutritional surveys in the state, the group nevertheless found worrying the use of the UNICEF/OLS planning figures based on nutritional data of varying reliability on self selected populations at unrepresentative sites.

The following methodologies and activities were considered unacceptable by participants:

As the pattern of malnutrition was believed to be uneven the group urged that the response should be flexible. Instead of implementing selective feeding programmes for 38,000 people at pre-identified sites, participants recommended that OLS:

Feeding programmes

Standard reporting to an OLS focal point on process and outcome indicators of each feeding programme was recommended, so that the progress of all feeding interventions could be monitored in a standardised manner. Also, before on-site supplementary feeding is undertaken fully adequate sanitation, water, and hygiene precautions should be assured.

Exit strategies

It was recommended that prior to the harvest late this year, discussions should be held with local farmers, herders, fishers, traders, administrators and other locals on how best to phase out feeding programmes, and how to establish local emergency preparedness. In September, the OLS monthly Emergency Nutrition Co-ordination Meeting, usually held in Nairobi, met in Lokichoggio instead, 21/9/98. In addition to addressing the above concerns expressed by the nutritionists, participants also established a task force to review and make recommendations on nutrition programme quality in South Sudan, following up one of the recommendations of a recent OLS/SPLA Targeting and Vulnerability Task Force. We will include reports of these activities in the next issue of RNN.

More information contact: Judith Appleton,
Senior Nutritionist, Oxfam, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7DZ, England.
E-mail: jappleton@oxfam.org.uk

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Bahr-el-Ghazal Nutritionists Meet. Field Exchange 5, October 1998. p14. www.ennonline.net/fex/5/bahr