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Development through better nutrition: IAEA signs partnership agreement to tackle malnutrition

 children ecuador

By improving the availability of nutrient-dense foods, supporting food safety, and by facilitating the use of stable isotope techniques to develop and evaluate nutritional interventions, nuclear technologies play an important role in the global fight against hunger and malnutrition. Through its Technical Cooperation (TC) programme, the IAEA has leveraged these nuclear techniques in support of Member State efforts to improve access to healthy diets and foster the evaluation of national nutrition programmes. The Agency was recently joined in this struggle against malnutrition by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has entered into a Practical Arrangement (PA) with the IAEA.

Established in 2000 in the high hopes of enhancing global healthcare access and reducing extreme poverty, the Gates Foundation has grown to become the world's largest private foundation, boasting a $42 billion endowment. Through its Global Development Division, the foundation has launched dozens of projects which intersect with and complement IAEA efforts to target and better understand causes of malnutrition.

Signed on February 16, the Practical Arrangement elaborates the scope of cooperation between the foundation and the IAEA, which will include both scientific research and field activities. Mutual support and collaboration between both institutions will focus on micronutrient nutrition, infant growth and feeding practices. For example, by addressing micronutrient deficiencies in mothers and children-revealed through the administration and subsequent analysis of isotopic tracers-the PA paves the way for more effective vitamin A intervention programmes, and thereby improves nutrition and health.

With the aim of sharing information and ideas in support of the PA, Kenneth Brown, a Senior Fellow of the foundation, recently provided an overview of the foundation's work in the area of human health and nutrition to IAEA experts at the Agency's Vienna headquarters. Held on March 11, the meeting was attended by Aldo Malavasi, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications.

The application of stable isotope techniques results in a better understanding of the causes of malnutrition and the effect of nutrition intervention programmes. Today, experts recognize that healthy diets require a balanced combination of macronutrients (such as fats, protein and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to ensure proper nutrition. Any imbalance in this delicate equilibrium-either too much or too little-can have negative repercussions.

From lifestyle and sanitation to societal and genetic factors, the causes of malnutrition are numerous and require multi-sectoral approaches to address them. The complexity of this challenge has underscored the need to build partnerships and cooperate with other technical institutions.  The IAEA looks forward to close cooperation with the foundation, and to the fruits which that cooperation will inevitably bear.

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