Launch of the Emergency Nutrition Network
by Humanitarian Practice Network February 1997

There has been a growing awareness amongst agency personnel in the emergency food and nutrition sector that interventions are not always as appropriate, effective or efficient as they could be. High turnover of staff and failure of institutional memory often leads to a tendency to ‘re-invent the wheel’.

Humanitarian emergencies are frequently associated with logistical and resource constraints which limit field level access to appropriate information at a critical time.

Furthermore, experience demonstrates that, as emergencies unfold, new sets of issues and problems arise where existing knowledge or guidelines are often of little help in supporting fieldworkers trying to respond.

The idea for the Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN) arose at an interagency meeting to address some of these issues.

The network includes humanitarian agency personnel, academics and researchers working in the food and nutrition sector of emergencies. The overall aim of the network is to improve the effectiveness of emergency food and nutrition interventions in emergencies, primarily through facilitating the exchange of field level experience and providing a mechanism by which field staff can be kept up to date with current research and evaluation findings.

It is hoped that the ENN will play a part in increasing the level of consensus at field level on best operational practice.

The primary medium for this information exchange is a quarterly newsletter – Field Exchange – which will contain short articles written by field personnel working in the food and nutrition sector of emergency response.

These articles should highlight new approaches or specific difficulties and raise issues provoking debate or research.

An article may describe a recurring problem or draw out lessons learnt e.g. adapting feeding programmes in insecure situations. Other articles may be reports of observed nutritional phenomena where there is a recognised need for more data and research e.g. the association of specific diets with Kwashiorkor.

The newsletter will also contain correspondence and dialogue on topical issues and events: readers may wish to comment on subjects such as a recent meeting or conference or the findings and operational relevance of an emergency programme evaluation. Listings of conferences, meetings courses and training workshops will also be included.

It is anticipated that, in the future, the network will promote initiatives aimed at addressing recurrent problems and issues facing field workers.

The outcomes of these initiatives might include more up-to-date guidelines, good practice reviews, and the ability to provide appropriate technical support to field staff.

The Emergency Nutrition Network is currently funded by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, MSF International, Concern Worldwide, ODA, ACF, Oxfam, CIDA, UNICEF, SCF (UK), UNHCR, WFP, WHO, and IFRC. Partnership in the network is not dependent on funding or any other financial contributions

If you want more information about the ENN and would like to receive Field Exchange; if you have research findings or relevant experiences you would like to share or wish to highlight a specific problem or issue contact:
Fiona O’Reilly
Emergency Nutrition Network
Department of Community Health & General Practice, Trinity College
199 Pearse Street
Dublin 2
Ireland
Tel: +353 (0)1 6082676 / 6081087
Fax: +353 (0)1 6705384
Email: foreilly@tcd.ie