NUTRITION PHD PROGRAMME EAST AFRICA
- Reference: P-Z1-IB0-019
- Appraisal Date: 01/02/2015
- Board Presentation: 08/07/2015
- Status: PipelinePIPE
- Implementing Agency: EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY (EAC)
- Location: Burundi
The EAC CoE in Laboratory based Nutritional Sciences in Burundi will aim at responding to post graduate nutritional training needs and research challenges faced by the EAC. The project will contribute to enhance the capacity of locally based nutritional researchers who can interact with policy makers at the national and international levels in the area of human health and diseases.
Delivery of the Laboratory based Nutritional Sciences program is modelled on the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) training concept . The program will be implemented in a consortium framework encompassing multiple academic and research institutions in the EAC region. This program is the first consortium in Africa to focus on basic science training in nutritional sciences.
The proposed Nutritional Sciences program at the University of Burundi, will be delivered within the African Nutritional Sciences Program (ANSRC) network and will include close supervision and mentoring, research projects of high quality with relevance to local health issues, enhancement of the physical resources in the local laboratories, development of skills in research project management and in grant writing so that graduates are competitive for international resources, and where needed, enhancement of teaching and research skills of existing faculty. The ANSRC consortium implementation approach will facilitate national and regional collaborations, and enhanced mobility of highly trained skilled researchers within the EAC region.
Further, each University of Burundi/ANSRC associated research project will be linked to a 'path to action' in which the training offered is intimately linked to societal economic and developmental needs and priorities and local public health problems. This is especially important considering the noticeable mismatch between skills generated by higher education institutions in most African institutions and needs of the economy. A unique strength of the project is in forging close partnerships with the private sector to achieve a sustainable, highly efficient and economically relevant doctoral training program.
Similar to Phase 1, the overall development objective of the EAC CoE in Laboratory based Nutritional Sciences in Burundi, is to contribute to development of relevant and highly skilled workforce in biomedical sciences to meet East African Community (EAC) immediate labor market needs and support implementation of EAC's 'free' labor market protocols. The specific objective of this CoE is to promote overall health of the population and increased productivity through relevant skills development and research in nutritional sciences. Targeted research in nutritional sciences will lead to innovative interventions with significant cost-savings allowing resources reallocation to other development priorities in the EAC countries.
The justification for nutritional interventions in Africa has often been difficult due to lack of information on the likely economic costs of malnutrition, and the expected return-on-investment of specific interventions. Towards addressing this challenge, the Cost of Hunger Study in Africa (COHA) project led by the African Union Commission (AUC) in partnership with multiple international agencies is now providing initial estimates of economic and social impacts of child under-n utrition in Africa. Recently released results of the COHA project indicates that losses associated with malnutrition are 16.5% of GDP in Ethiopia. These initial findings offer strong justification for nutritional interventions as effective cost-saving strategies for African countries.
The other side of the double burden, over nutrition, now affects more people than under nutrition worldwide. In Sub-Saharan Africa in 2030 overweight/obesity in women will be over 40% and deaths from cardiovascular disease will be much higher than from HIV, malaria, TB and maternal-childhood malnutrition combined. Available information suggests as an example, diabetes and cardiovascular disease account for the major fraction of Tanzania's health care budget. Graduates from this CoE, will be equipped with relevant skills and research capacities to lead the understanding of how to approach the nutritional problems linked to the double burden in Africa.
One of the main bottlenecks to improving nutrition status of vulnerable groups is linked to the lack of knowledge of nutrition at all levels. The EAC region suffers from a lack of human resources in science, technology, and biomedical sciences which include laboratory based nutritional sciences. As a result, the East Africa is experiencing inadequate nutritional technical capacity. No wonder, many interventions have been done in the agricultural sector to improve food production, however, malnutrition still remains which affect an increasingly large number of people, particularly the most vulnerable including women and children. There is therefore a need to ensure that there is a critical mass of well trained and motivated nutrition professionals able to liaise on policy, planning and programming as well as on monitoring impacts related to improved nutrition through research.
While the health impact of nutrition is well established, new evidence now indicates malnutrition severely impacts early learning capacity in children. Malnutrition impairs the writing and reading ability of children, and lowers performance in specific taught subjects. Again, stunting in childhood leads to markedly decreased earnings and work productivity in adults, and as well, increases adult risk for Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). For example, anemia is associated with decreases in learning ability, work productivity and increases in poor pregnancy outcomes. A recent report from Uganda provides data that 943 million working hours were lost in 2009 due to absenteeism from the workforce associated with nutrition-related mortalities.
More capacities in nutrition will help to improve nutritional knowledge among the population and improve nutritional behavior which will lead to reduced malnutrition. In addition, people trained will also serve the food security agenda in supporting the agriculture sector through the value chain activities, the agri-business, and also in building resilience systems. Further, building local capacity in the EAC will help provide insights as to how stunting and seasonal starvation lead to epigenetic effects impacting on later adult health outcomes, health costs, and human productivity. Therefore, it is necessary to build local capacity for nutritional sciences which is also a basis for economic development.
CHARO Ruth Karimi - OSHD3