Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - In a bid to stop millions of people dying and suffering every year from malnutrition, the World Health Organisation Wednesday launched a new web-powered initiative that clarifies guidance on life-saving nutrition interventions, and assists governments and healthcare providers to better scale up action against all forms of malnutrition.
The WHO e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA) was launched during Wednesday's opening of a three-day Asia regional nutrition meeting in Sri Lanka, the global health body said in a statement made available to PANA here.
The initiative will help governments to overcome one of the major challenges in fighting malnutrition: the vast, and often conflicting, array of evidence and advice that exists on effective, preventive and therapeutic nutrition interventions.
The online eLENA project does this by prioritising and presenting the latest advice on tackling the three main forms of malnutrition: undernutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and overweight and obesity.
“Several billion people are affected by one or more types of malnutrition,” the statement quoted Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Assistant Director-General of Non Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, as saying. “Countries need access to the science and evidence-informed guidance to reduce the needless death and suffering associated with malnutrition. eLENA can greatly improve how countries cope with the terrible health threats posed by malnutrition.”
The statement said underweight is the leading risk factor for many diseases in low-income countries and represents about 6% of the global disease burden.
Childhood underweight, micronutrient deficiencies (iron, vitamin A and zinc) and poor breastfeeding combined cause 7% of deaths (equivalent to 3.9 million lives lost) and 10% of the global disease burden.
It listed micronutrient deficiencies as including iodine deficiency, which is the world’s most prevalent, yet easily preventable, cause of brain damage; anaemia, which affects 1.6 billion people, mostly due to iron deficiency, and increases the risk of low-birth-weight babies and of pregnancy anaemia, associated with 18% of maternal deaths; vitamin A deficiency, which is suffered by 190 million preschool children; zinc deficiency, which can affect the immune system and kills 430 000 children annually; Overweight and obesity: around 1.5 billion adults over age 20 are overweight or obese.
Global estimates suggest more than 40 million children aged under 5 are already overweight or obese.
The initiative describes the effective health interventions needed to tackle malnutrition as including the appropriate treatment of severe acute malnutrition; promoting breastfeeding; and fortifying staple foods with vitamins and minerals such as iron and folic acid for wheat and maize flours.
It also recommends using multiple micronutrient powders to fortify foods for children aged between six and 23 months.
It said in order to prevent anaemia, daily iron and folic supplements are advised for pregnant women, and intermittent iron and folic acid supplementation is recommended for menstruating women.
The new eLENA tool is an important component of WHO’s global drive to help countries prevent and control malnutrition, and it is supported by the Bill