SUNRAY – AN INITIATIVE TO TACKLE MALNUTRITION IN AFRICA.
Malnutrition is referred to a condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking or are in the wrong proportions. This condition is widely prevailing in many parts of Africa. SUNRAY shortened for ‘Sustainable Nutrition Research for Africa in the Years to Come’ is a research project initiated by four African and five European institutions as a consortium. It is certainly a ray of hope for many Africans affected by malnutrition. The whole project is reviewed as follows:
An ambitious research project called SUNRAY: the acronym for ‘Sustainable Nutrition Research for Africa in the Years to Come’ has been initiated with the approval of the European Commission. The project aims to reduce malnutrition in Africa after comprehensive and detailed research.
The project will be implemented by a syndicate of four African and five European institutions coordinated by the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp. The estimated duration of the project is two years and would cost approximately about a million Euros. This is an apt moment for investing in nutrition research.
Malnutrition rates remain high, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where only nine out of 46 countries are on track to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal target (a 50% reduction in underweight among children less than five years old). Undernutrition is only part of the problem; obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases are increasing as lifestyles change so there is a double burden of malnutrition. (Christopher H.)
Malnutrition results not only in early death but is also responsible for reduced quality of life and lower gross national product. In addition, new nutritional challenges are emerging, due to changes in climate, demography, and international markets. Thus, elevating the evil of malnutrition in Africa.
The SUNRAY-project intends to identify new and innovative ways to address the problem of malnutrition. The research agenda and priorities will be defined primarily by African researchers. Other institutions and individuals with an interest in nutrition and related fields in Africa will also be consulted.
African partners will take ownership of the research agenda to ensure that it is sustainable for their environment and reach more vibrant results. The research will be integrated with initiatives in other sectors such as agriculture, health, education, social protection, and rural development, to address the root causes of malnutrition and to avoid ‘technical fixes’.
The project will link research with policy and action, and involve a broad range of stakeholders, including politicians, government staff, health professionals, nutritionists, consumer and public health organizations, agro and food industry, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, civil society, United Nations (UN) organizations, and donors. Thus it’s certainly a ray of hope as it is conducted giving priority to the interests of Africa. (Peter L.)
The research agenda
The researchers will record the current nutrition research in sub-Saharan Africa (and its funders), and identify the barriers, constraints, opportunities, and unmet needs of its people. Up to now, high-income countries have dominated nutrition research, which has led to an awareness of nutrition problems such as obesity and much less emphasis on undernutrition and the nutritional problems faced by Africans.
The research will be focused not only on current needs but also on future needs as the scientists will identify not only the current needs but also emerging research challenges for the nutrition community, due to future changes in climate, biodiversity, demography, urbanization, water availability, economy, politics, agriculture, international markets, socio-economic dynamics, and conflict.
Policy-makers at the highest level need to be persuaded that investment in nutrition is essential. The image of the starving child is no longer enough to provoke action.
The SUNRAY project intends to replace that appeal to emotions with facts and figures and to promote research that produces clear findings so that action becomes domineering. The project is aimed to convince that it’s high time to put more into action than words.
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