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Interagency meeting looks at Emergency Selective Feeding Programmes

The Minister of State for Foreign affairs, Joan Burton, recently opened a meeting on 'Emergency Selective Feeding Programmes' in Dublin. The three day event (April 18th-2Oth) was hosted by Concern Worldwide and brought together over thirty individuals specialising in nutritional aspects of emergencies from NGOs, UN agencies and universities. This was the third in a series of inter-agency meetings which were initially established by UNHCR. The first of these, 'Tools and Strategies in the Management of Nutritional Emergencies took place in Addis Ababa at the end of 1995 and brought together the same mix of practitioners and academics. The experience in Addis Ababa was so positive that it was agreed that this type of group should meet regularly in order to continue a process of discussion, debate and consensus reaching on key aspects of nutritional practice in emergencies.

The Dublin meeting was held in a modest but comfortable hotel in the centre of town where many participants also stayed. The relaxed manner in which the three days were organised made proceedings comfortable and easygoing. After hours social events created a good environment for networking some of which culminated in new collaborative links and initiatives.

Specific findings and recommendations from the meeting will be published in the next issue of Field Exchange. Below is a summary of the topics discussed at the meeting.

Construction of a typology of selective feeding programmes:

The first day of the meeting was given over to efforts to develop a typology of emergency selective feeding programmes. Emergency selective feeding programmes have had to evolve in recent years in response to rapidly changing contexts and environments. Objectives and
aims have therefore also had to change. The trouble is that in many situations these objectives are not explicitly stated, or in some cases, not even properly understood by those implementing the programmes. Clearly stated valid objectives are necessary when programmes are being evaluated. It was envisaged that the construction of a typology would therefore help to:

Most appropriate anthropometric iadices for use in selective feeding programmes:

This session included presentations and discussion based on field level studies undertaken by Concern Worldwide and ACF. The main subjects were; the role and appropriateness of utilising Z-scores and percentage of the median weight for height in defining eligibility for selective feeding programmes and, the most appropriate anthropometric indicators for defining risk of mortality.

Scientific Foods and their suitability in selective feeding programmes:

This dealt with the use and effectiveness of using FlOO feed for therapeutic feeding and SP450 porridge for supplementary feeding programmes. Presentations were based on collaborative research undertaken by Mike Golden from Aberdeen University and ACF and which had been conducted in a number of emergency selective feeding programmes.

Issues around closure of emergency selective feeding programmes:

The types of issues addressed were; when and how to close emergency selective feeding programmes, how to assimilate programmes into host country health structures, and how to plan ahead for closure. This session included a presentation on effectiveness of local health structures in treatment of severe malnutrition and another on ACF experiences of programme closure.

Humanitarian agency co-ordination issues in emergencies:

This session allowed for a presentation of U~NHCR experiences of co-ordinating NGO activities as well as a general discussion of co-ordination issues in a plenary group where NGO staff were able to outline their experiences.

Malnutrition in adults and the elderly.

An initial presentation set out issues and research needs in the area of adult malnutrition. A second presentation described current research being undertaken to develop anthropometric indicators for assessing malnutrition in the elderly. A third presentation outlined findings of a review on the role and efficacy of using BMI measurements in assessing adult malnutrition.
The meeting was extremely informative with participants finding the forum useful for idea and information exchange. Many of the presentations and plenary sessions provided new information from recent research or simply served as a revision session for those of us who had forgotten certain basics. The sessions which involved empirical quantitative study were better received by participants than those devoted to the more conceptual areas of this subject. In fact whether in working groups or at plenary sessions, it was difficult to really hammer out and make progress on the more conceptual or policy related issues, e.g. constructing typologies of programmes or issues around programme closure or co-ordination. This may have been a reflection of the intrinsic complexity of some of these conceptual areas, although greater directed facilitation for these sessions may have led to more conclusive outcomes. Hopefully, by the next meeting in Amsterdam in November, working groups and individuals will have made progress on some of the unresolved issues.

A report of proceedings at this meeting is currently being prepared by Concern Worldwide.

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Interagency meeting looks at Emergency Selective Feeding Programmes. Field Exchange 1, May 1997. p13.



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