What a Bangkok!

In our last issue, the editorial gave some information on the history of the International Congress of Nutrition (ICN) as a tribute to the 19th ICN. We met in Bangkok officially from October 4th to 8th, 2009. As expected and as predicted, this was a well planned, colorful, high profile and very successful event.

Symposia: There were numerous symposia and side events and as such, it was possible to leave the 5- day conference without meeting someone you might have wished to see. I still do not have the official figure of attendees, but there must have been more than three thousand delegates in that meeting, from all over. This was a high profile event; Thailand has a princess who has been extremely supportive of the nutrition activities in her country, always ready to meet and listen to both Thai and external professionals on improving the situation of children, women and the poor. The Princess attended four of the five days of the conference. She would sit there in a session listening, taking notes and even asking questions. Thereafter, she would greet people, welcome them to Thailand and graciously thank them for travelling to her country. In her, Thailand has a natural public relations guru, whose involvement in nutrition matters has helped tremendously to advance the profession. One could see a unity of purpose among all those who were involved in the organization of the event. We extend accolades to our Thai colleagues for a conference well organized and executed. Exhibitions by the private sector were numerous and colorful. There were no “anti” anybody demonstrations. A number of companies also held their symposia which were well attended. Even though private sector involvement bothered some people within the conference, the general mood was that we were in this together and that it is better to agree on the rules of moving forward than to exclude a whole sector (industry) who might not be aware of our concerns. Personally my message is: get industry on board and let them understand our concerns about dumping of substandard goods in developing countries, flooding markets with products that do not help good nutrition, and unfair practices which lock out the poor from good nutrition; we all know that private sector’s main interest is to make money and not charity, but we need them to exercise their co-operate social responsibility. We want them to make money in a sensible way that does not generate friction and tension between themselves and the rest of us who are trying to do good for humanity. As always, it was an event of HONORS. Dr. Barbara Underwood, former IUNS president humbly accepted the IUNS award while Dr. Nevin Scrimshaw, the guru and father of nutrition was honored by the INF (International Nutrition Foundation) being named after him as he stepped down as its President. Nevin ( as many of us fondly call him) founded INF. For the first time, an African, Prof. Anna Lartey of Ghana is the IUNS President Designate. We applaud and congratulate the new team at the helm of IUNS. We wish Dr Ibrahim Elmadfa all the best as current President and pledge our support, and Dr Ricardo Uay success as he moves on to new responsibilities that include stepping into Nevin Scrimshaw’s shoes as President of INF. Well, new initiatives were launched as forthcoming conferences were announced. For example the World Public Health Nutrition was launched and held two meetings in Bangkok. The WPHN will continue to work under the banner of IUNS and many professionals and especially young people are welcome to join online as the website is already up and running.  Well, all this sounds too focused on health and nutrition and little on agriculture and value addition. There were sessions by HarvestPlus’ biofortification programs, sessions on nuts and coffee and on food and nutrition rights, and on food-based dietary approaches. From there I headed to Rome where discussions are on-going on how to save the world from hunger through increased production of food. My next editorial will be very much agriculture focused. There is a lot to be done. We all need to pull together to contribute to the enjoyment of all peoples of the world, regardless of where they reside: South, North, East or West.

Ruth Oniang’o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND

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