UNSCN Working Groups important contributions
Much of the outcome of UNSCN, highlighted below, originates from the UNSCN working Groups. Identifying knowledge gaps as well as practice gaps, and endeavoring to fill them is the role that the SCN Working Groups are tasked with to this day. The UNSCN is one of the few fora where nutrition practitioners can come together and discuss what works and what doesn't work. The important contributions coming from the UNSCN Working Groups include:
Vitamin A capsulesThe UNSCN can take pride in the role it played in facilitating and accelerating approaches to the control of vitamin A deficiency. The outline of a ten year plan to control vitamin A deficiency was put forward in 1985, at the 11th session of the UNSCN in Nairobi. In 1987 a review of operational experience in vitamin A supplementation was published as an UNSCN state-of-the-art review. Support for Vitamin A programmes only really gathered pace however, after the preparation of a meta-analysis funded by Canada on the recommendation of the UNSCN and published by the UNSCN, which confirmed the dramatic reductions in child mortality that could be achieved by massive dose vitamin A supplements.
Iodized saltThe control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD), another great success story, again was facilitated by the UNSCN. A UNSCN review of the problem of prevention and control of IDD led to the development of a ten year plan to control IDD. A tripartite working group was set up to help launch the program - the group included representatives of the concerned agencies, interested bilateral agencies and the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD). ICCIDD came under the umbrella [but not control] of the UNSCN, which provided the framework for the all important communication of the IDD message to the multilateral and bilateral agencies.
Nutrition and HIV/AIDSThe UNSCN has been a pioneer in promoting the importance of nutrition in the treatment of and dealing with the problem of HIV/AIDS. The Symposium on this subject held at the 28th Session in Nairobi in 2002, led to a participant's statement on the issue and the formation of the WG that has met regularly since. The Working Group has pioneered the development of a website with regular updates on the latest programme information (this service is currently being integrated into the UNSCN One-Stop-Shop Food and Nutrition Resource Portal).
Life cycle and low birth weightThe Working Group on Nutrition Throughout the Life Cycle has carried forward the important concepts of life-cycle consequences of malnutrition that have originated in the UNSCN circles. The UNSCN News No 16 on Maternal and Child Nutrition in 1995 first presented the life-cycle approach. This was further promoted by the Report of the Millennium Commission, and incorporated into the Fourth Report on the World Nutrition Situation. The first ever meeting to discuss low birth weight and how to prevent it, led to the development of a Nutrition Policy Paper No 18.
Breastfeeding and complementary feedingThe Consultative Group on Maternal and Infant Feeding of the UNSCN, which performed an important service in developing infant feeding guidelines for use by the agencies and others in the early days, was terminated in 1985. The current WG was established in 1997 and has met regularly ever since, providing an important forum for discussion among the agencies, bilateral partners and the NGO community on many issues, including the debate on duration of exclusive breastfeeding, and the best practice for areas with high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
UNSCN Working Group on Nutrition, Ethics and Human RightsThe Working Group on Nutrition, Ethics and Human Rights has been developing and advocating a human rights based approach to nutrition since 1993. The 26th Session held at UNHCHR in Geneva in1999 held a Symposium entitled ‘Substance and politics of a human rights approach to food and nutrition policies and programming'. The WG efforts have undoubtedly contributed to the emergence of the human right to food work, now being taken forward by FAO.
Emergency Nutrition NetworkThe Working Group on Nutrition of Refugees and Internally Displaced People was established in 1992 and has since evolved into the WG on Nutrition in Emergencies. The Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN) is an NGO that emerged from this WG in 1996, and that interacts through the UNSCN Working Group with the bilateral and multilateral agencies. It is a very active NGO network that produces the periodic publication "Field Exchange" and has helped to produce guidelines on infant feeding in emergencies.
Ready to Use Therapeutic Feeding (RUTF)Experience with use of a new genre of foods for feeding severely malnourished children in emergency situations (RUTF) had not been extended to and included into regular development assistance until a meeting was promoted as part of the work plan of the Nutrition in Emergencies Working Group. This led to a consultation and the eventual publication of an UNSCN Nutrition Policy Paper No 21 entitled "Community-Based Management of Severe Malnutrition in Children" . From Working Group work plan to publication took just 2 years, which is quite remarkable. This was the first NPP to be published in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin.