5.5 Trends in Information Sharing and Learning
Several recent trends in information sharing and learning between agencies that are of particular relevance to the nutrition of refugees and displaced populations are discussed in this section, including
• the coordination of activities within the nutrition sector of emergencies (including the inter-agency group on emergency nutrition);
During the early to mid-1990s a loose and informal network of nutritional experts from various agencies was formed. This “interagency group on emergency nutrition” was largely coordinated by UNHCR. The group was set up to allow opportunities for networking, sharing, and exchanging information and to move away from the concept of owning knowledge. More recently, there has been further consolidation of the food and nutrition sectors, involving information sharing and exchange through a number of key agencies, independent consultants, and academic representatives. There has been a general shift of emphasis to the factors underlying food security approaches that is broadening into a more mature public nutrition and food security outlook involving more agencies and other non-nutritionists such as economists and public health specialists.
The meetings convened by the group have contributed to improvements in applying standard procedures and protocols,k and the development of a collective process of institutional learning. Some key developments and advances in the field of nutrition in emergencies can be traced to these meetings.8
k For example, the standard procedures for estimating the prevalence of acute malnutrition in a population, and the protocols for rehabilitation of the malnourished.48
The past few years have seen a significant increase in the amount of information concerning emergency nutrition from various sources available to nutritionists and the general public alike. Recent developments include
• The establishment of the Health Information Network for Advanced Planning (HINAP).l HINAP is a joint project between WHO’S Department of Emergency and Humanitarian Action (EHA) and CDC. HINAP provides structured health information on communicable diseases, immunization, mortality, and nutrition organized by country. HINAP targets potential risk areas around the world for mass population movements. The information provided is regularly updated in the event of an emergency so that programmes can be altered in light of changing circumstances. It relies on experts in the field of early warning to identify target countries and collaborates closely with other international agencies.
l HINAP information is distributed at www.hinap.org/. Further information on listservers, CD-ROMS, and hard-copy bulletins will also be available shortly.
• The establishment of the e-mail discussion network “NGONUT,” which has prompted lively discussions on a range of topics, including the rehabilitation of the severely undernourished, the management of nutritional oedema, prevention and treatment of anaemia, and the assessment of nutritional status in adolescents.
Applied Health and Nutrition Research in Emergencies
Particular progress has been made in coordinating and prioritizing applied health and nutrition research needs in emergencies. During the past two years, the Department of Emergency and Humanitarian Action of WHO has led a process to formalize applied health and nutrition research to improve the quality of humanitarian interventions. WHO recently published an inventory of applied health research studies in emergency settings, which included 52 studies related to nutrition.38 The same department has also published the results of a consultation called Applied Health Research Priorities in Complex Emergencies.50
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