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News and notes

SCN news

The Sub-committee on Nutrition (SCN) of the United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) is the focal point for harmonizing the policies and activities of the United Nations system in the field of nutrition. The ACC, which comprises the heads of the UN agencies, recommended the establishment of the Sub-committee on Nutrition in 1977, following the World Food Conference (with particular reference to Resolution V on food and nutrition). This was approved by the UN Economic and Social Council. The role of the SCN is to serve as a co-ordinating mechanism, to provide for the exchange of information and technical guidance, and to act dynamically to help the UN system respond to nutritional problems.

The UN system members of the SCN are the United Nations itself, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, IFAD, ILO, UNDP, UNEP, Unesco, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNRISD, UNU, WFC, WFP, and WHO. From the outset, representatives of bilateral donor agencies have participated actively in SCN activities. It is assisted by the Advisory Group on Nutrition (AGN), composed of six to eight experienced individuals drawn from relevant disciplines and with wide geographical representation. The SCN secretariat is hosted by FAO in Rome.

The SCN undertakes a range of activities to meet its mandate. Annual meetings have representation from the concerned UN agencies, some 10 to 20 donor agencies, and the AGN, as well as invitees on specific topics; these meetings begin with symposia on topics of current importance for policy. The SCN brings certain such matters to the attention of the ACC. It sponsors working groups on intersectoral and sector-specific topics. Ten-year programmes to address two major deficiencies - vitamin A and iodine - have been launched.

The SCN compiles and disseminates information on nutrition, reflecting the shared views of the agencies concerned. A regular "Report on the World Nutrition Situation" is issued. State-of-the-art papers are produced on selected topics. Research priorities for solving nutrition problems are proposed in consultation with agencies and researchers in the field. Initiatives are taken to promote co-ordinated activities - interagency programmes, meetings, publications - aimed at reducing malnutrition, primarily in developing countries.

(From SCN News, 1988;1&2:44.)

Review of oral delivery of vitamin A available

The policy discussion paper Delivery of Oral Doses of Vitamin A to Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency and Nutritional Blindness (see summary in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 70-71), the second in the ACC/SCN series of state-of-the-art reviews, is available free of charge from the SCN secretariat. It is by Keith P. West, Jr., and Alfred Sommer and includes discussion by G. Arroyave, E. M. DeMaeyer, R. P. Devadas, S. J. Eastman, K. Vijayaraghavan, and V. Reddy, with an introduction by J. B. Mason with S. J. Eastman and M. Lotfi. It reviews the case for vitamin-A prevention programmes, focusing on the distribution of vitamin-A capsules as usually the first intervention for rapid effect. Fortification and dietary modification are introduced in the discussions.

Statement on nutrition and AIDS

At its meeting in Geneva, 22-26 February 1988, the SCN sponsored a symposium on Nutrition and AIDS, which reviewed the current epidemiologic information on the spread of AIDS and possible connections between nutritional status and either the initiation or rate of progression of HIV infection. The implications of the exploding epidemic of AIDS on household, community, and national structures and infrastructures were explored. In the discussion the two focal questions were "Does nutritional status, or nutritional intervention, influence the course of AIDS?" and "Is there indication that the spread of AIDS will lead to nutritional problems through reduction of supplies and services?" It was noted that AIDS results in malnutrition in the affected individual, since progressive wasting is a common marker of progress of the disease.

With regard to the first question, at present there is not a clear indication that nutritional status has an effect on susceptibility to infection or progression to overt disease, although this remains a likely possibility. In any case, it is likely that nutritional support of the subject with manifest AIDS will improve the quality of remaining life, but it is not certain that it will extend life. Several studies are now under way in this area.

In agrarian societies reductions in agricultural production associated with reduced manpower can be foreseen or alternatively the need for an increase in agricultural mechanization. It can be predicted that the health system will be faced with major increases in needs for services and may face this demand with reduced manpower and possibly disrupted infrastructures. Any of these outcomes would have major implications for food, nutrition, and health planning. They would impact on future needs for capital funding and on the debt repayment capabilities of affected countries. That is, interest areas of all agencies in the SCN family stand to be affected.

In nutrition monitoring and surveillance, it is noteworthy that, as AIDS in young children increases, interpretation of both low weight and high mortality as nutritional indicators will have to change.

While there is not a clear path for avoidance of the scenarios described above, the present epidemiologic data may be seen as an early warning in a world surveillance system. It would seem critically important that governments and the UN agencies monitor not only the epidemiology of AIDS but also the development of structural effects of the epidemic so that national and international actions can be set in motion to attempt to compensate for effects as they begin to develop.

Volume 10, number 3, of the Food and Nutrition Bulletin will have a special section with the papers from the symposium referred to in this statement.


International Foundation for Science

The International Foundation for Science (IFS), founded in 1972, is an organization created to support promising young scientists and technologists in their research work in developing countries. The support is provided in the form of grants, scientific advice, and arrangements for scientific contacts, including workshops arranged by the IFS.

The IFS is a non-governmental organization based on scientific academies and research councils in 69 countries, of which two-thirds are in developing and one-third in industrialized parts of the world. The foundation is governed by an international board of trustees, and has its secretariat, also international in character, in Stockholm, Sweden.

Criteria for a research grant are the scientific quality and promise of the researcher and the proposed research project, and the relevance of the research to the needs of the country concerned. To be eligible for a grant, an applicant must be a citizen of, and carry out the research in, a developing country.

All applications are evaluated by international panels of experienced scientists in the different research areas.

The grants are given to individual scientists and are primarily intended to provide equipment. expendable supplies, and certain technical assistance for a specific project. The grants normally do not exceed US$12,000, and the average grant amounts to about US$8,000. A grant may be renewed up to three times.

Food science is one of the seven scientific areas supported by the foundation. Aspects of research include food technology and processing, fermentation and microbiology, storage and packaging, nutrition, composition, contamination, and toxicology. The IFS grant programme also includes aquaculture, animal production, crop science, forestry, natural products, and rural technology. Abstract catalogues have been prepared for all these areas.

When a research grant is approved, a formal agreement is made between the foundation, the grantee, and the grantee's institute (or a similar authority) for the first period of research. The institute undertakes to administer the grant and to provide the laboratory, professional salaries, and other facilities necessary for the project. Instruments and other equipment financed by the grant normally become the property of the institute.

The grant can be transferred partly or entirely to the grantee's country, or a project account in convertible currency can be opened in Stockholm for special purchases.

Reports have to be submitted upon completion of a project. For renewal of a research grant, a separate application must be submitted together with a progress report.

The foundation does not claim any rights to any publication, invention, or patent arising out of a project.

The foundation's working languages are English and French, and inquiries are welcomed in either of these languages or in Spanish. Information material and application forms are available from: IFS Secretariat, Grevturegatan 19, S-114 38 Stockholm, Sweden.

(From Food Laboratory Newsletter, 1988;11:6-7.)


Food technology events

The following international events of interest were announced in the Institute of Food Technologists International Newsletter (no. 26, Feb. 1988):

- 11-14 October 1988, Bogota, Colombia: Sixth Latin American Seminar and Third Colombian

National Congress of Food Science and Technology, "Food for the 21st Century." Contact: L. E. Zapata, Seminar Secretariat, Avenida 63, #22-16, Bogotá, Colombia.

- 15-17 November 1988, London: Food Ingredients Europe '88, Exhibition and Conference on Food Ingredients and Additives. Wembley Exhibition and Conference Centre, London. Contact: Expoconsult, P.O. Box 200, 3600 AE Maarssen, Netherlands; telephone 31-3465-73777; telex 47945; fax ++31346573811.

International news about agriculture and food science and technology are welcomed by the Newsletter. Please send them to: Dr. M. A. Jimenez, Editor, IFT International Newsletter, 1604 Treboy Avenue, Richmond, VA 23226, USA.

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