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Book review

Human nutrition in tropical Africa.

M. C. Latham.
FAO Food and Nutrition Series, no. 11, rev. 1. Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, 1979.286 pp.

Michael Latham's manual for health workers emphasizes community nutrition problems in East Africa from a public health perspective. socio-cultural factors, interactions with infections, and aetiology of malnutrition are presented simply. The assessment of nutritional status, the priority areas of nutrition during pregnancy, lactation, and childhood are well covered. Other sections describe basic principles of nutrition, nutrient functions, sources, and needs, and the major classical disorders of malnutrition. Protein-energy malnutrition receives particularly thorough analysis. A discussion of food and sources of nutrients as available and relevant to populations in tropical Africa follows. The author draws on his extensive experience in the area to describe food resources that can provide for nutrient needs but that are often poorly used.

The section on nutrition policy and programmes presents views on development and programme objectives including political, economic, and social interactions that influence nutrition policy. Strategies of some programmes such as food fortification, supplementation, rehabilitation, and nutrition education are described with a critical eye. The frequently forgotten evaluation component is suggested for all nutrition programmes at all levels. Some adaptable solutions for nutrition problems are then introduced, including some very useful recipes using local food materials appropriate for feeding infants and young children. For this, Latham's experience and familiarity with tropical Africa are invaluable. This kind of approach has been missing from the classical textbooks and teaching in the developing world and has special merit.

The book stresses several issues:

- First, though the signs and symptoms of malnutrition may be similar, the socio-cultural political, economic- to say nothing of the aetiological and epidemiological- factors responsible for nutrition problems are different. It is high time for regional identification of these factors to be undertaken so that appropriate solutions can be found for nutrition problems-an attempt this book assuredly makes.

- Second, much current emphasis is on high-dietary protein quality. Eggs, meat, and fish lead the lists of requirements in areas where they do not even exist. This book stresses, instead, that what people need in tropical Africa is food, enough to satisfy growth and energy needs, enough of available varied foods, including cassava, legumes, cereals, vegetables, locusts, etc.

- Third, a fair look into the local habits and beliefs is a prerequisite to introducing nutrition programmes. Many habits have been introduced recently. Useful habits can be implanted if the right means are used. Additional food to supplement breast-milk and mixed diets for infants can be promoted just as cassava and carbonated drinks were introduced to tropical Africa.

This useful book should be available to ail health workers in tropical Africa.

El Fatih El Samani
UNU Fellow
MlT/Harvard International Food and
Nutrition Policy Programme

New Director for the National Food Research Institute, Japan

Dr. Susumu Kimura has been appointed to succeed Dr. Hiroshi Miura as Director of the National Food Research Institute (NFRI) Japan, a training unit of the UNU World Hunger Programme. Dr. Miura has been Director of the Institute since April 1979. Dr. Kimura was head of the Food Engineering Division.

Dr. Nobuzo Tsumura has been appointed UNU Resident Co-ordinator. He succeeds Dr. Shinji Matsuura.

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