In the February 1998 issue of UNU Nexions, an article on the UNU's Food and Nutrition Programme contained material that misconstrued statements made by Nevin Scrimshaw about FAO and WHO. The newsletter's editorial staff would like to convey their apologies for this misunderstanding.
In his private briefing to the UNU staff, Dr. Scrimshaw, who has directed the UNU Food and Nutrition Programme since its inception in 1975, described the roles of FAO and WHO in the field of nutrition in the UN system and indicated how the activities of the UNU have complemented and supported them.
He gave as examples the role of the UNU in developing the International Network of Food Data Systems (INFOODS) project that became a joint activity with FAO when FAO renewed its interest in food composition under John Lupien. He indicated that the UNU was continuing to support the INFOODS network while FAO was supporting national food composition activities and both were supporting regional INFOODS meetings. He lamented that the Nutrition Unit of WHO had suffered a loss of funds and personnel and that some clinical nutrition activities that had been the principal responsibility of WHO were suffering.
While FAO is providing strong leadership in the areas of food quality and food safety, and is concerned with food-based approaches to malnutrition and undernutrition, clinical and public health nutrition activities are not a primary role of FAO. Therefore, the UNU is providing international leadership in two important areas, one the advocacy and technical support of supplementation and fortification programmes for the prevention of iron deficiency and the other annual scientific workshops to review issues relating to dietary protein and energy needs.
In the former, the UNU has sponsored multi-centre trials of the efficacy of weekly supplementation for the prevention of iron deficiency. For the latter, the UNU is playing a unique role jointly with the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) and the Nestle Foundation in organizing and supporting the International Dietary Energy Consultative Group (IDECG). Both FAO and WHO participate in its workshops. Dr. Scrimshaw emphasized the important initiative that was being undertaken by the new UNU Food and Nutrition Programme Director, Dr. Cutberto Garza, to develop new international child growth standards in partnership with WHO.
The thrust of Dr. Scrimshaw's presentation was that the Food and Nutrition Programme of the UNU has a valuable and well-recognized role to play in the UN system that complements and supports the activities of FAO, WHO, and UNICEF, as well as the World Bank, WFP, and other UN agencies concerned with food and nutrition. Although he is retiring as Director of the programme after 23 years, he will continue to serve as the programme's Senior Adviser and Editor of the Food and Nutrition Bulletin.