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Issue 30 Editorial

Many pieces in this issue of Field Exchange strengthen our understanding of best practice in nutritional emergencies. We highlight four in this editorial.

Victoria Sibson from Concern Worldwide describes efforts to establish why SFPs, implemented as part of CTC programming in Darfur, have often failed to meet SPHERE standards. Concern Worldwide undertook a study in two SFP locations with very different performance results. In El Geneina SFP, cure rates were only 26.9% and default rates were 47.5% while in Mornei SFP, performance was much better, almost reaching SPHERE targets. A number of contextual factors explaining the different programme outcomes came to light. For example, in El Geneina there is a larger internally displaced population (either in camps or living with residents) that has greater trading opportunities, so that the opportunity cost of participating in the programme is far greater than in Mornei. Other factors are the greater coverage of the general food distribution (GFD) in Mornei, better access to protected water sources and the existence of more complementary programming, e.g. health, livelihoods, etc.

These findings raised a number of questions for Concern. For example, does the widespread inability of many agencies currently working in Darfur to meet minimum standards for SFP performance indicate that the general ration needs to be increased, and whether cure, death and nonresponse (failure) rates should be used to judge programme quality alone, or are they also indicators of the quality of the supporting services (health, water and sanitation, food security, GFD, etc).

Concern's experience is very timely in that the ENN is currently completing a study on the effectiveness of emergency SFPs in a large number of emergency settings. The study has involved the analysis of data sets from 82 SFPs implemented by 16 agencies between 2002-5. One of the key aspects of this analysis is an examination of the principal factors which may predispose to programme success or failure. Findings will be summarised in the next issue of Field Exchange.

The ENN and Field Exchange have devoted considerable print space to the experiences of implementing cash transfers as part of emergency programming. In this issue WFP, IFPRI and Oxfam have collaborated to write about a pilot cash intervention in Sri Lanka following the 2004 December 26th tsunami. The article examines the relative merits of cash and food aid programme as part of an ongoing WFP Vulnerable Group Feeding programme. The same targeting mechanisms were used for cash and food beneficiaries, with the amount of cash disbursed equal to the local market value of the WFP food ration. The authors draw important conclusions about where one type of programme may be more appropriate than the other. For example, in areas where markets were functioning and accessible, cash transfer was more cost-effective and preferred by beneficiaries. The converse was also true. The appropriateness of cash programming was also found to depend on market access and functioning (whether they are competitive and integrated), and security. Food aid was found to be more appropriate in contexts where markets were not working well, where security conditions imposed higher market transactions costs for consumers, and in situations of high and unpredictable inflation. These, and other findings, are valuable additions to the emerging body of experience on cash programming being documented in a number of fora.

In the research section of this issue, there is a fascinating study dealing with the effects of HIV/AIDS between 1993 and 2005 on individuals, households and communities in Zambia. The research focused on two locations in Zambia: Mpongwe - close to the Copperbelt towns, and Teta, a remote rural area. A unique aspect of the work was the fact that it used a 'cluster' approach to help understand how individuals and households had either adapted or disintegrated as a result of ill health, and specifically HIV/AIDS. A cluster can consist of various households, usually, though not necessarily, living in the same geographical area. A significant benefit of the concept is that it allows the most important relationships between individuals of different generations and gender, marital and kinship statuses to be identified and understood.

The study identified a number of factors that determine the relative vulnerability and resilience of a cluster to the impact of a death, e.g. length and degree of incapacity during AIDS-related illness, overall cluster composition, etc. Another key finding was that the inherent adaptability and flexibility of the matrilineal social system in Zambia enables it to accommodate deaths and changing economic and demographic circumstances. The authors set out a number of very significant lessons for those making policy and designing programmes. For example, in programmes working with the poor, targeting should be directed at resource-poor clusters rather than poor households and for targeting, a broad based multifaceted definition of vulnerability is needed, i.e. one that is not just AIDS-related.

Another notable research piece in this issue is a summary of an important study instigated by WFP in conjunction with the government of Angola and various implementing partners to investigate the prevalence of niacin deficiency in post-war Angola. The study found that the expected decrease in pellagra incidence after the end of the civil war in 2002 had not occurred. This is the first report of a household population survey of niacin status in a region with a pellagra endemic and has demonstrated a serious prevalence of low and deficient niacin status in women - nearly one in three women were found to be niacin deficient. The authors assert that the identification of niacin deficiency as a public health problem should refocus attention on this nutritional deficiency in Angola and other areas of Africa where maize is the staple. While WFP is now providing fortified maize flour to vulnerable groups in Bie province, this study suggests that there may be a need for a national flour fortification initiative and other locally targeted interventions.

Over the coming months, we will be carrying out an evaluation of Field Exchange. Central to this evaluation is what you, the readership, think of Field Exchange - how you use it in your work, what do you like about the content and format and how do you think it could be developed or improved. A questionnaire has been included with this issue and more details are included in the news section on page 14.

As usual, there are also many other field articles, research, news and evaluation pieces in this issue of Field Exchange and we sincerely hope there is something to interest all readers. Enjoy!

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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Jeremy Shoham (2007). Issue 30 Editorial. Field Exchange 30, April 2007. p1. www.ennonline.net/fex/30/fromtheeditor

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