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Issue 23 Editorial

This edition of Field Exchange carries a number of articles which challenge the effectiveness of our standard responses to food and nutrition emergencies. A review undertaken in the Great Lakes region (see research section) is highly critical of food security responses over the past 5 years. Criticisms included the adoption of too narrow a range of interventions, many of which were judged to be inappropriate, short-term and overly focused on the food production side rather than market access. Issues of cost-inefficiency were also highlighted when alternative interventions may have been implemented at a 'fraction of the cost'. Another review of nutrition programming in the southern Africa region undertaken on behalf of UNICEF and WFP included a focus on the emergency response during 2001-3 emergency (see research section). This element of the review raised serious questions over the effectiveness of selective feeding programmes with regard to coverage and impact. A field article by John Moore and Mara Berkley-Matthews in this issue on difficulties of attending and managing SFPs in war-ravaged northern Uganda highlight how the success of many such programmes are highly context specific although programme staff did manage to introduce measures to circumnavigate some of the security related problems of attendance,

In shining contrast Field Exchange carries a field article by Kristy Allen about a highly successful monetisation programme in Bulawayo . The Market Assistance Pilot Program (MAPP) is providing beneficiaries in Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, with a low-cost maize alternative - sorghum - through existing commercial channels.

The price of sorghum is determined by income, household size, and the retail price gap between maize and sorghum. Retailers are also permitted a 15% mark-up on the product to ensure profitability. Local processors, distributors and retailers are also encouraged to invest in producing the product locally, the first step towards ensuring sustainable production at the local level.

The MAPP targeted more than 800,000 families in the Bulawayo area. Preliminary estimates suggest that the sorghum meal prices allowed most poor families in the target area to purchase sufficient food to feed all family members three meals per day for the six month duration of the pilot program. 77% of the highdensity population (460,000 people) were being fed per month by the MAPP. In recognition of the MAPP's impact and its potential to assist many more vulnerable households, USAID Food for Peace has approved a MAPP expansion to Gweru, targeting over 100,000 urban poor; an expansion to Chitunguiza, targeting 250,000 urban poor; and the continuation of the original program in Bulawayo.

Findings of a recent CIDA funded systematic literature review (to be reported in the next issue of FEx) on six types of emergency intervention (GFD, SFP, TFP, measles, vit Aand bednets) show very little published literature on the impact or cost of these programmes. A review by HPN (see research section of this issue) of both the published and grey literature of the impact of a broad range of humanitarian responses found a similar dearth of information. This review states that the humanitarian system currently lacks the skills and capacity to successfully measure or analyse impact.

There would now appear to be a growing body of support for introducing systems to ensure more effective monitoring of impact of humanitarian responses and awareness that knee-jerk standard responses often involving food aid may not always be appropriate or effective. At the same time, newer types of programming in the era of HIV/AIDS involving food aid need careful monitoring especially with regard to cost-efficiency. The soon to be published CIDA review will argue that there is currently no agency with overall responsibility for monitoring cost-efficiency of interventions. Thus, standard interventions are routinely trotted out by agencies for a variety of reasons (many of which do not necessarily relate to need, i.e. agency mandate, area of expertise, visibility, ease of accountability, availability of food aid rather than cash, etc). This means that there is no overall collation of information on effectiveness or cost, there is a lack of analysis of the grey literature and that opportunities which may arise in certain emergency contexts for controlled impact assessments are not capitalised upon. At the same time donors do not apply cost-efficiency criteria to proposals. There is a pressing need to remedy this situation. One solution may be to appoint an agency whose primary mandate is to compare costefficiency of different types of intervention in the humanitarian sector. Such an agency would also need to keep a close eye on assessing impact and cost-efficiency of newly emerging types of intervention, e.g. HIV/nutrition programming, before such programmes are rolled out on a large scale or become part of standard agency practice.

Finally, Field Exchange is pleased to be able to publish the findings of one of the first studies on impact of HIV/AIDS on food and economic security at community level. The article written by Celia Petty and John Seaman is based on a study of a modified form of Household Economy Assessment conducted in four countries. In two of the countries (Swaziland and Mozambique) researchers examined HIV/AIDS impact and found that in Swaziland, omitting the costs associated with illness and funerals, extra adult mortality attributable to HIV/AIDS over the past 5 years has caused a fall of approximately 8%-12 % in total community disposable income. However, the economic impact on individual affected households is specific to that household, and ranges from a small improvement in income/adult equivalent (e.g. death of an unemployed adult) to devastating loss (e.g. loss of one or more salaried/public sector workers). Overall, the net effect is to make very little change to the proportion of households falling below the defined poverty line.

The research provides a measure of the distribution of poverty in the study communities and casts doubt over the feasibility of deriving 'simple' HIV/AIDS related poverty indicators. This has implications for the design of social protection and welfare policies, as well as wider macro economic policy debates. For example, if only orphans were identified as eligible for free primary education or health care, many poor children would be excluded and some better off children included.

We hope you enjoy this issue of Field Exchange

Jeremy Shoham

Any contributions, ideas or topics for future issues of Field Exchange? Contact the editorial team on email: office@ennonline.net

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Reference this page

Jeremy Shoham (2004). Issue 23 Editorial. Field Exchange 23, November 2004. p1. www.ennonline.net/fex/23/fromtheeditor