First Edition
by John Borton March 1994

Welcome to the inaugural mailing of the Relief and Rehabilitation Network! We are confident that with the active participation of its members, the RRN will, over the next few years, provide an effective and valued mechanism for professional information exchange in the field of disaster relief and humanitarian policy. Naturally, it gives us pleasure to have brought to fruition an idea conceived two years ago.

The Newsletter contains information of professional interest to RRN members organised under the six headings Feedback, News Items, Update, Training CoursesConferences and Publications.

We are committed to operating a Network which both serves and ‘belongs’ to its members. Feedback will therefore provide RRN members with the opportunity to comment on the contents of previous mailings and express their views on the operation and future development of the Network. For this inaugural mailing, Feedback is devoted to an explanation of the origins of the RRN, its objectives and our plans for the future.

News Items provides information on selected topics likely to be of interest to RRN members and, where appropriate, relevant addresses. In this issue, the section contains information on: US NGO experience in relation to war risk insurance cover; an initiative by the EC Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to set up a European post-graduate degree course on International Humanitarian Aid; an initiative supported by Oxfam and NOVIB to establish a support network for relief workers returning from conflict-affected areas; a description of the recently established Refugee Nutrition Information System operated by the UN ACC/SCN in conjunction with several international and local NGOs; and finally, a piece describing the UN International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction which is approaching its half-way point.

Update provides summary information on current and potential humanitarian emergencies, drawing on a variety of UN, donor and academic sources. The section is aimed at RRN members who don’t have access to such sources and who would like to be kept aware of the status of these areas and the relief operations being implemented.

Publications summarises the contents of selected new books and reports and indicates other publications and journals likely to be of interest to members. A listing of recent articles carried by the journal Disasters will be a regular feature of this section.

Conferences provides information on forthcoming conferences and meetings relevant to RRN members. Where possible, recent conferences and meetings will be reported on.

As well as this Newsletter, the mailing contains three Network Papers. Two of the papers present particular experiences of drought relief operations implemented in the Southern African region in 1992-93, and the third is an account of the humanitarian aid operations in Bosnia in the former Yugoslavia.

The first paper prepared by Tine Dusauchoit describes an innovative information system, the Celula Inter Secções, established by MSF in Mozambique in 1992 into which several other NGOs feed information. The system grades districts according to their nutritional and health status, highlighting those requiring immediate attention.

The monthly bulletins generated by the system are utilised by agencies involved in large-scale emergency operations in Mozambique in their resource allocation decisions. Potentially the CIS model, or variants of it, may usefully be established in other emergency programmes where NGOs are operational in most parts of the affected area.

The second paper prepared by Derrina Mukupo describes the Programme to Prevent Malnutrition (PPM) in Zambia. The Programme was the result of a deliberate policy by the new government to by-pass the existing relief distribution mechanisms which they considered ineffective and too closely associated with the previous regime.

Consequently, the PPM relied almost entirely on NGOs and mission hospitals to distribute 250,000 tonnes of maize, largely in the form of food-for-work schemes, in conjunction with local Area Committees. Though the PPM structure was set up rapidly, the indications are that it was an effective mechanism. Despite being the product of an unusual situation, the experience may contain lessons for joint government/NGO relief operations elsewhere.

The third paper prepared by Mark Duffield describes the characteristics and effects of the conflict in Bosnia, the operation of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), the organisation of the humanitarian aid operation and the issues these raise. The operations in Bosnia are very much UN-led, but NGOs, many of them specially formed to respond to the situation in the former Yugoslavia, are playing an important role. For those RRN members whose only source of information has been through extensive international media coverage, the paper provides an excellent entrée to the operations, highlighting the similarities and differences with humanitarian aid operations in Africa.

This issue is also available in French: Échange Humanitaire No. 1