Distinguished Colleagues, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to open here today the panel discussion: Capacity Development in Nutrition: The Turning Point.
What can be more important than nutrition? Nutrition is important for everybody. In particular vulnerable population groups such as infants and young children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and those affected by diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
More and more, policy makers are realising the impact of adequate nutrition on the development of individuals, including in the capacity to learn as well as to resist disease and hardship. To improve nutrition for humanity we need science and technology to move forward.
This is where the International Atomic Energy Agency comes in. Our statute says that the Agency shall accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity.
The IAEA´s human health programme assists countries worldwide, enhancing their capacity to prevent, diagnose and treat health issues through the development and application of nuclear techniques within a framework of quality assurance. We work in diagnostic imaging, radiotherapy and cancer care as well as medical physics. In the area of nutrition, the programme contributes key technical expertise in the use of stable isotope techniques - which are nuclear techniques - in the development and evaluation of nutritional interventions.
The use of stable isotopes in nutrition is not as widespread as it should be, mostly either due to lack of access to the technology or due to limited capacity in using the technology in Member States. Because we believe in the real contributions to nutrition stable isotopes can bring, we prioritize training and capacity building on its use. In this regard, the IAEA has fostered the widespread use of stable isotope technology to address priority areas in public health nutrition in our Member States.
We have done that both by training professionals from Africa, Asia and Latin America either through fellowships or training courses, or by establishing laboratory infrastructure improvement programmes and partnerships with institutions in our Member States. The IAEA also contributes capacity building in nutrition by supporting PhD students from a variety of countries, some of whom receive research grants through us.
Partnerships with world class institutions are essential in training. We are in the process of establishing the first IAEA Collaborating Centre dedicated to nutrition - the St. John´s Research Institute, St. John´s National Academy of Health Sciences, in Bangalore, India. St John´s has provided excellent training opportunities to young investigators from IAEA Member States - so it was really time to recognise this partnership.
Finally, many of you will also recognise our commitment to capacity building from the news. You may recall the creation in 2005 of the IAEA Nobel Cancer and Nutrition Fund. Following the award of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize to the IAEA and to our Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, our Board of Governors decided that the prestigious prize would be used to create a special fund for fellowships and training to improve both cancer management and childhood nutrition in the developing world.
In nutrition, the focus of the Fund has been on capacity building in the use of nuclear techniques to develop and evaluate interventions to contribute to improved nutrition and health for children. So far, we have organized three regional events. The first event of its kind in Asia was in Bangladesh in 2007. The next one is scheduled for early next year. I would encourage you to read our website for more information on the IAEA´s work on nutrition.
On a special note, I would like to highlight our host country´s particular commitment to the issue of nutrition for development, which is to be commended.
This panel discussion Capacity Development in Nutrition: The Turning Point will address a topic of major importance. I am pleased to have this opportunity to open the first panel discussion during the International Congress of Nutrition.
I wish you success.