Malnutrition and hunger can have devastating consequences, contributing to
low birth weight, developmental problems, mental retardation, and a weakened
Supplementation programmes have been used for decades to improve nutrition
in developing countries, where nearly 200 million children under 5 years
of age suffer from malnutrition. The IAEAs nutrition programme uses
nuclear techniques to monitor a wide variety of nutritional problems and improve
the management of food supplementation programmes.
In Latin America, roughly 80 million poor people in the region receive some
nutritional support at a cost of billions of dollars to governments. An Agency
regional project is providing the information needed to evaluate the effectiveness
of these supplementation efforts and is assisting national governments to
set baseline nutritional guidelines tailored to local conditions and needs.
The Agency is also supporting research in Senegal to evaluate the effectiveness
of a supplementation programme for breastfeeding mothers and children in poor
Tuberculosis (TB) and malaria are serious threats to human health in the
developing world. TB kills an estimated 1.5 million people each year.
Malaria accounts for one in five of all childhood deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.
The IAEA has developed molecular methods that are able to detect drug-resistant
strains of both TB and malaria in a matter of hours, rather than the several
weeks required by traditional methods. Several projects have been undertaken
in Africa using these methods to detect drug-resistant strains, so that appropriate
treatment can be started early. In Mali, molecular methods were used to rapidly
identify more appropriate drugs to effectively control a malaria epidemic.
While communicable diseases continue to be a priority, the impact of other
diseases, like cancer, in the developing world is not insignificant.
The IAEA is working to improve access to radiation therapy in developing
countries, where, for example, roughly 200 000 women die each year from cancer
of the cervix. Treatment was not available in Ethiopia, where women make up
about 70 percent of all cancer patients, until a radiotherapy centre
was opened in 1997 with support from the Government and the IAEA.
Another Agency programme in Africa is working to improve the safety and effectiveness
of existing radiotherapy treatments in 19 countries and to introduce new and
improved techniques at these facilities.
The Agency has also been developing a new radiopharmaceutical to treat primary
liver cancer. Thyroid disorders and iodine deficiency disorders affect growth
and overall health and can jeopardize childrens mental health. Nuclear
techniques play an important role in preventing hypothyroidism and treating
thyroid cancer and iodine deficiency.
The IAEA has initiated a project in the Philippines to use these techniques
to screen newborns for congenital hypothyroidism.