NIPN Nutrition Research and Policy Seminar Kicked Off
“Monthly seminars to discuss nutrition related issues in the country are an important activity of the National Information Platform for Nutrition (NIPN)” Ato Solomon Eshetu,
Organized on November 9, 2018 by EPHI, in close collaboration with the Compact 2025 initiative of the Food Policy and Research Institute (IFPRI), the second Nutrition Research and Policy Seminar was organized around the theme “Stunting Reduction in Ethiopia “.
During his opening remark, A/Director of the Food Science and Nutrition Research Directorate of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI),Ato Solomon Eshetu highlighted that Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in reducing stunting, which fell from 58 percent to 38 percent between 2000 and 2016.
Despite these encouraging results, almost one third of the children remain chronically malnourished, which requires for more efforts to reduce stunting even further.
Monthly seminars to discuss nutrition related issues in the country are an important activity of the National Information Platform for Nutrition (NIPN)” Solomon explained, “This will support the main objective of the NIPN, notably to promote evidence-based decision making for nutrition”.
During the seminar two informative presentations which focused on the topic of stunting were delivered. The first presentation on the topic “Changes in child under nutrition in Ethiopia (2000-2016)” was brought by Kalle Hirvonen, Research Fellow at the Ethiopian Strategic Support Program of IFPRI. Kalle explained the elements which supported stunting reduction in the last 16 years.
Based on DHS data, Dr Hirvonen reviewed how stunting rates have changed between 2000 and 2016 by gender, and across space and wealth levels, and explained the possible underlying drivers of this rapid reduction in stunting prevalence. Comparison of age dynamics of stunting over time suggests that there has been little improvement in average birth sizes—a hypothesis supported by limited increases in women’s Body Mass Index, especially in rural areas. Poor maternal health during pregnancy, and poor dietary diversity during complementary feeding remain significant risk factors for stunting.
He added, in 2016, median duration of exclusive breastfeeding increased from 2.5 to 3.6 months between 2000 and 2016. Dr Hirvonen also demonstrated that child growth still ‘collapses’ around the sixth month, which is the time when complementary foods are introduced. In Ethiopia, due to the fact that these complementary foods are of extremely low nutrient density which resulted to the primary factor maintaining high stunting rates in the country.
The second presentation which looked into the future theme “Accelerating stunting reduction: what would it take?” was presented by Kaleab Baye, Director of Center for Food Science and Nutrition at the Addis Ababa University.
Dr Kaleab illustrated the trends and spatial-temporal distribution of stunting by bringing together a wide set of evidence from the publications of the Addis Ababa University and various other research institutes.
Using a food systems conceptual framework, he also demonstrated the missed opportunities to improve diets and accelerate stunting reduction in Ethiopia. He highlighted the importance of the economic, social and environmental factors , but also the feeding behavior and the cultural attitudes, the availability, the affordability and food choice as factors contributing to stunting.
While feeding children, points that needed to be addressed are realizing not only what we feed to children, but how to feed them is also a big challenge and needs special care and attention. Dr Baye also explained that the key issues to be seen are the linkage among the food and health system, attention should be given to the diet habits to counter the stunting rate.
The key attention should be given to synergize nutrition and the health system and controlling and adjusting the diet system. Dr. Baye pointed out that these issues are timely to reduce stunting rates in Ethiopia.
He also said availability of enriched foods should get higher consideration in addition to the policy direction for the reduction of stunting.
Discussions were held following the presentation.
A total of 90 researchers, program implementers and policy makers from various government entities, donors and implementers, researchers from AAU and EPHI were attending the Seminar.