Tomorrows Catastrophe. Debt and drought, dissidents and disease are devastating sub-Saharan Africa. Thirty years after the high expectation that greeted Ghanas independence, marking the assertion of a nationalism that swept through Africa, the continent is impoverished. It owes foreign creditors some $200 billion, and the repayment levels are crippling. The consequences of poor rains and harvest failures are exacerbated by civil conflicts in Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Mozambique, Angola. At least one million Africans are expected to die of AIDS within the next decade. There is no single answer to the growing crisis, but unless there is a sustained and coordinated effort by the West to provide greater help to African governments now trying to help themselves according to prescriptions laid down by the World Bank and the IMF, todays crisis will become tomorrows catastrophe. [Source: The Financial Times, London, December, 1987]
Independent Commission on Health Research for Development. The Independent Commission on Health Research for Development, a newly-established independent international group, met for the first time in Frankfurt, West Germany, November 4-6, 1987, and holds its second meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 26-29, 1988.
The objective of the Commission is to improve health in the developing world by enlarging research activities and speeding up the application of research results. Supported by a budget of $1.5 million, contributed by a dozen national and international funding agencies, the Commission is expected to accomplish four specific purposes over its two-year life:
- to produce an independent, expert analysis of the strengths, weaknesses and gaps in current research on health problems in developing countries;Further information can be obtained from the Commission Secretariat, International Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts. [Source: Public Announcement, November 1987]
- to promote action to strengthen existing activities and fill key gaps identified by the Commission;
-to strengthen professional and institutional capacities for health research in developing countries; and
-to consider working methods and possible sponsorship for a continuing assessment of research on health problems in the developing world.
Rank Prizes in Nutrition. Three Rank Prizes in Nutrition are to be awarded on the 14th March, 1988, in London. The prizes for nutrition are:
H.F. DeLuca, D.R. Fraser, D.E.M. Lawson - for their work on the metabolism of vitamin D.Consultancy Group on Dietary Energy Meets. Thirty scientists from 15 countries met in Guatemala City in August 1987 for the first meeting of the International Dietary Energy Consultancy Group (IDECG). Focus of the meeting was on chronic energy deficiency and its effects on behavioural development, stature, work capacity and productivity. Papers were also presented on the socio-economic consequences of and responses to food deprivation, seasonality in energy metabolism, the effects of energy supplementation, research on metabolic adaptation to low energy intake, and maternal energy requirements. This information was supplemented by reports on studies carried out in Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the Philippines. Participants later prepared reports on available knowledge, policy implications and research topics. State of the art papers and working group reports will be published. The IDECG was founded at a meeting convened by UNU and the International Union of Nutritional Scientists in Geneva in September 1986. The Nestle Foundation was appointed to serve as the groups secretariat. Additional information on IDECG can be obtained from B. Schurch, Secretary General of IDECG, c/o The Nestle Foundation, P.O. Box 581, 1001 Lausanne, Switzerland.
J. Cravioto - for his pioneering work on the mental development of malnourished children.
P.R. Jennings, T.T. Chang, L. Yuan - for their contribution to the development of highly productive rice varieties which transformed the food position in Asia.
Conference on Nutrition in Times of Disaster. A conference on Nutrition in Times of Disaster is planned for mid-198 8 under the co-sponsorship of the SCN and the International Nutrition Planners Forum (INPF). The objective of the Conference is to achieve consensus on the most desirable actions to pursue in dealing with the nutritional aspects of disaster management. The conference will focus on man-made disasters, such as wars and forced relocations, and slow on-set disasters caused by factors such as drought and crop failure. Experts from several institutions concerned with disaster preparedness are contributing conference papers on these issues: indicators for assessment and monitoring; requirements for food rations and programme planning; preparation for early response; acute natural disasters. The conference is expected to produce a clear set of recommendations which could be incorporated into the guidelines or handbooks of UN agencies and NGOs.
Nutritional Surveillance in Latin America. PAHO sponsored an International Course on Food and Nutrition Surveillance (CIVAN) in Santiago from October 19 to December 15, 1987. The course, which brought together nutrition professionals from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, aimed to broaden participants knowledge of nutritional surveillance, especially in the use of information for planning, monitoring and evaluation. The course director was Dr. Sergio Valiente at the University of Chile, Santiago. Meanwhile, UNU organized with a Venezuelan NGO, CAVENDAS, an expert meeting in Caracas from November 23-25 to discuss desirable consumption levels for micro- and macronutrients and to define criteria needed to translate current knowledge into public information. PAHO also reports that Agricultural food planning of the basis of nutritional needs was the central theme of the Eighth Brazilian Symposium on Food and Nutrition held in June 1987.
Growth of Hunger and Malnutrition accelerated in the 1980s. A WFC report states that economic difficulties in debt-ridden developing countries have exacerbated problems of hunger and poverty during the 1980s. The report, presented at the Councils 13th Ministerial Session in Beijing in June 1987, said updated FAO data showed that the total number of hungry people in the world grew by 40 million between 1980 and 1985, compared to an increase of 15 million in the previous decade. By the mid-1980s, the number of hungry exceeded 500 million, (using a definition of hunger equivalent to 1.4 times basal metabolic rate).
The report stated that in the first half of the 1980s, the growth of hunger had accelerated in all regions except the Far East. Africas hungry population had increased most rapidly, while the Near Easts declining hunger trend had been reversed. While the prevalence of hunger had fallen in all developing regions except Africa, actual numbers of hungry had increased along with population growth. Worsening economic conditions have significantly reduced the developing countries capacity both to invest in national food production and to import basic foods, WFC said. Available data suggest dramatic increases in the number of unemployed over the past decade-and-a-half. In many regions growing unemployment has gone hand in hand with falling real wages, further reducing the survival and livelihood prospects for millions of people. [Source: The Global State of Hunger and Malnutrition and the Impact of Economic Adjustment on Food and Hunger Problems, World Food Council, June 1987. Document Number: WFC/1987/2, 8 April 1987]
Salt with Iron. Indias National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, had developed a successful process for the fortification of edible salt with iron, the Institutes publication Nutrition News reported in January 1987. The absorption of iron added to salt when consumed along with a cereal based meal was found to be satisfactory, the article said. When consumed over a period of 12 to 18 months, iron-fortified salt had been shown to reduce significantly the prevalence of anaemia in children.
Food Incentive. Attendance at mobile clinics in northern Nicaragua was higher in villages where food incentives had been offered than in control villages, an article in The Lancet of June 7, 1986 stated. When food had been offered later in control villages, attendance rose by 60 percent, to full attendance. The authors suggested non-emergency food aid could be offered as incentives to increase the use of basic health services in developing countries.