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Issue 11 Editorial

by Lola Gostelow

When I began working in the field of emergency nutrition in 1991, I think I took for granted the degree of peer support, inter-agency sharing, scientific rigour and constant probing through research that I experienced. I enjoyed an incredible learning curve, stimulated by colleagues and friends around the world, taking advantage of any meeting or conference to further explore the incredible power behind a strong partnership between research and action. I thought emergency nutrition was just like any other humanitarian subject, but how wrong I was. Emergency nutrition is a stronger discipline with a very close inter-agency ethos, and I think I have realised this more in the last year since moving into my new role of general emergencies adviser. Communication in nutrition is, in my opinion, more far-reaching in terms of international reach; more voluminous; and more substantive in nature than other humanitarian areas. Why?

I think there are several reasons, and one major one is evidenced here in Field Exchange's pages. The process that led to the establishment of the Emergency Nutrition Network and thereafter the launch of Field Exchange, in my mind reflects three important, and rarely combined, principles: consensus amongst a group of technical practitioners about the needs; a call for concrete actions to address those needs; and a commitment from many organisations to support and facilitate the work.

And so it was that three and a half years ago I was asked to write the editorial for the first issue of Field Exchange, and gladly did so with Helen Young. We stressed the shared ownership of Field Exchange - i.e. that it belongs to all of us who contribute to and use it - and it is that which has given it such strength. Although the geography might have shifted since 1997, the conviction we outlined then holds as true today: "Whether we're sitting in Paris or London, Bukavu or Jhapa, we are all striving to continue to learn and develop our skills so that we can improve the effectiveness of the food and nutrition interventions we are involved in."

In some ways, we face problems on the ground that we shouldn't have to face, whether it be pellagra in Quito or increasing malnutrition in Northern Kenya several months after an international appeal. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that it is only through clear evidence and professional rigour that we can hope to infiltrate the political bubbles within which life-ordeath decisions are made. What should donors' priorities be for the last quarter of 2000 - a food security crisis unravelling before our very eyes in Zimbabwe; avoiding nutritional deterioration in Huambo by expanding the existing food aid programme; or relief for the Rajasthan/Thar drought?

The compound of research and practice makes for a powerful concoction and it is exactly this synergy that Field Exchange has catalysed so powerfully: providing a forum for field practice to be exchanged and explored while also sharing research and academic insights that could influence future programming and priority-setting. And the effort continues as we see in this edition of Field Exchange.

I think this landmark edition permits a final note which I am certain you would all wish me to indulge in: My hearty congratulations go to the editorial team of Fiona O'Reilly and Jeremy Shoham without whose vision, hard work and dogged persistence the Field Exchange would have crumpled. We owe them a lot, but most importantly we owe them continued commitment and support.

Thank you.

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Lola Gostelow (2000). Issue 11 Editorial. Field Exchange 11, December 2000. p1. www.ennonline.net/fex/11/fromtheeditor

(ENN_3451)

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