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Collaboration and Capacity Building for Better Nutrition

IAEA Hosts International Symposium on Understanding Moderate Malnutrition in Children

IAEA International Symposium on Understanding Moderate Malnutrition in Children for Effective Interventions

The IAEA Symposium brought together over 300 delegates from 60 countries to strengthen capacities for better management of moderate acute malnutrition. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Finding intersectional, collaborative and evidence-based approaches to managing moderate malnutrition in children were among the key topics raised during the opening day of the IAEA International Symposium on Understanding Moderate Malnutrition in Children for Effective Interventions. The four-day Symposium kicked off on 26 May 2014 at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna with over 300 delegates from 61 countries. The aim of the Symposium is to further develop effective programmatic approaches for preventing and treating moderate acute malnutrition (MAM), a condition of undernutrition that contributes to more than one third of all deaths of children under five years of age.

Poor nutrition during childhood, especially in the first 1 000 days of life, can have a significant impact on a child's growth, development and incidence of chronic diseases. MAM is a preventable and treatable condition that is caused by inadequate nutrition. It affects more children, particularly those below five years of age, and is associated with more nutrition-related deaths in children than severe malnutrition, a life threatening condition of undernutrition.

Managing MAM can not only improve children's survival rates, but preventing and treating MAM is also more cost effective than treating severe malnutrition. This is essential for countries with limited resources where children are more commonly affected by malnutrition.

In his opening remarks, IAEA Deputy Director General for the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, Daud Mohamad, explained that "the IAEA contributes robust and safe stable isotope methods for evaluating malnutrition intervention." He added that "the IAEA can only complement the work of nutrition and health organizations, and that within this collaborative framework, the Symposium sets out to strengthen capacities for better management of moderate acute malnutrition."

The Symposium brings together health professionals, policymakers, the private sector, research institutes and universities, as well as national and international organizations to share knowledge and experiences in researching and developing approaches for preventing and managing MAM. Presentation sessions, panel discussions and poster exhibitions will facilitate the exploration of challenges faced and lessons learned in implementing malnutrition intervention programmes, policies and decision-making tools, as well as focus on future research and development needs in this area.

"This meeting is a start. It is a way to look at a wide range of issues we still need to discuss and tackle," said Lynnda Kiess, Head of Nutrition Branch for the World Food Programme. "It provides a very important opportunity to address these outstanding issues and understand what we know, what we don't know, and what we can do to move forward."

The IAEA has organized the Symposium from 26 to 29 May 2014 in cooperation with the World Food Programme, Valid International, and Micronutrient Initiative. This collaborative effort is a significant facet of the IAEA's work to help eradicate malnutrition.

The Agency has been a leader in developing and promoting the use of nuclear techniques that complement and contribute to the global effort to improve infant and child nutrition. Stable isotope techniques have been identified as effective approaches for assessing body composition, which can be used to measure and evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of MAM interventions as well as gauge the risk of developing chronic diseases. These techniques complement other methods used for evaluating interventions and provide sensitive and exact measurements without involving radiation.

- By Nicole Jawerth, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication

(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA)