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We Need an Army

More Frontline Health Workers Needed to Tackle Moderate Malnutrition

Francesco Branca

Francesco Branca, Director, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, World Health Organization (WHO). (Photo: S. Henriques/IAEA)

Francesco Branca, Director of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, spoke to the IAEA's Sasha Henriques during this week's IAEA International Symposium on Understanding Moderate Malnutrition in Children for Effective Interventions about some of the practicalities of tackling this issue, which affects hundreds of millions of children worldwide:

"I think that there is a major need to build human resource capacities in countries around the world when it comes to nutrition.

"While nutrition intervention management and planning is important, the need for international assistance is not that great. In terms of the capacities of countries to set up their own systems, I have seen an enormous improvement. Countries themselves are leading the charge to design effective nutrition programmes, taking multi-sectorality into consideration, which is very important.

"But we simply need more people; more frontline health workers who are available to interact with vulnerable populations (such as pregnant women and children in resource-poor rural areas). We need more heath workers trained in nutrition, and in the execution of better quality nutrition programmes.

"We need an army that unfortunately, we do not have.

"Therefore a future area of close collaboration between the IAEA and the WHO might be in such a capacity building effort, considering the Agency's current relationships with nutrition researchers around the world, and the WHO's longstanding presence in national health landscapes."

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