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En-net update

By Tamsin Walters, en-net moderator

Seventeen questions were posted on en-net between May and July, eliciting 48 replies. Seven were posted in the Assessment area, four in Prevention and Treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition and three in Prevention and Treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition. These three areas continue to be the most active, though en-net now has six other forum areas where questions and debates are welcomed: Micronutrients, Infant and Young Child Feeding Interventions, General Food Distribution, Livelihoods Interventions, Humanitarian systems and Cross-cutting issues. The latter is a recently added area for debates traversing the humanitarian spectrum, pertinent to nutritionists.

Recent discussions on en-net have included: the complexities in the interpretation of high chronic malnutrition rates in situations where acute malnutrition rates are low; challenges related to Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) programming, including considerations of entry and exit criteria; analysis and interpretation of SMART survey data using the latest software packages; and the range of livelihood interventions that have shown improvements in Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) and micronutrient supplementation programmes.

An interesting discussion was initiated on alternative and, in particular, local production of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). Ongoing research projects and studies are active in several African countries, which range from those investigating ways to link food security and local level production with the development of supplementary and therapeutic food supplements, to those focused on tailoring a product to particular local conditions to meet disease-specific nutrient requirements. Contributions to the discussion were provided from projects in Burundi, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda and Sudan and people working in those different contexts are keen to collaborate with each other and any others working on similar initiatives to share experiences.

The discussion highlighted the many challenges involved in the development of a local RUTF, which include nutritional and technical considerations, such as anti-nutrient and dietary fibre content of some local ingredients, the availability of local foods and the difficulty of increasing production or sourcing sufficient quantities of local ingredients to meet requirements. In addition, socio-economic issues such as affordability of products and accessibility by extremely poor end-users come to the fore, as well as cultural issues related to the introduction of new crops or food products. Once these substantial hurdles are surmounted, quality control becomes pertinent and efficacy studies are necessary to demonstrate that the final product actually delivers results and has a clear benefit. This is an interesting area of experimentation and research which is yet to deliver viable local products to treat severe and moderate malnutrition. Go to http://www.ennet.org.uk/question/225.aspx for more detail or to join the discussion.

Thirty-two new users registered with en-net between May and July bringing the total number of subscribers to approximately 400. Over this three month period, the site received a total of 2037 visitors (although a bounce rate of 57% suggests that 876 were 'genuine' visitors), averaging 3:30 minutes browsing time per person and notching up 8,141 page views.

To join a discussion or post a question, visit www.en-net.org.uk

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Tamsin Walters (2010). En-net update. Field Exchange 39, September 2010. p30. www.ennonline.net/fex/39/ennet

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