IAEA Malnutrition Symposium Ends With Calls for Action
Passionate and engaged, symposium participants focused on MAM's important questions interspersed with light moments. (Photo: C. Wegner/IAEA)
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Following four days of intense discussions and detailed presentations, the IAEA International Symposium on Understanding Moderate Malnutrition in Children for Effective Interventions came to a close on 29 May 2014.
The Symposium brought together health professionals, policymakers, the private sector, research institutes and universities, national and international organizations.
The more than 350 participants from 65 countries and 50 agencies discussed a wide range of issues including: what works in the management of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM); maternal malnutrition and its effects on infant growth; nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive approaches to preventing MAM; the usefulness of cash transfers under different circumstances; and how to formulate national policy and address the concerns of governments seeking to tackle MAM in the face of information gaps.
Countries that are successfully addressing MAM presented their case studies, giving advice and accepting suggestions.
"This Symposium was filled with people who are passionate about the field of nutrition, so there was quite a lot of interaction for potential collaborations between the many experts from different areas of the field," said Najat Mokhtar, Head of the IAEA Nutritional and Health-Related Environmental Studies Section, which organised the gathering in association with the World Food Programme, Valid International, and Micronutrient Initiative.
Noting that the Symposium has started an important conversation, Kwaku Aning, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation, highlighted the key conclusions:
"First of all, strong government commitment and country ownership of initiatives to address moderate malnutrition are essential, particularly in efforts to improve the nutritional status of adolescent girls for a good start to motherhood.
"More evidence-based, cost-effective interventions are needed, and this will require the establishment of links with multiple sectors. The quality of data must be improved to inform policy. The use of stable isotope techniques as well as anthropometrics to evaluate the effectiveness of nutritional intervention programmes must be optimised.
"It is also important to take into account the range of agencies working in the area of malnutrition, and to avoid multiple, parallel actions to treat malnutrition.
"Capacity building is going to be key to addressing moderate malnutrition in childhood. Here, national governments must take ownership. Partnerships with academia will be important for programme formulation and evaluation," Aning said.
- By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication
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