Education and research to reduce malnutrition
Project title: GROW NUT – Growing Partnership for Higher Education and Research in Nutritional Epidemiology in DR Congo.
In DR Congo, which is covered almost by 50 % rainforest, a majority of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture which is very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Good management of forest resources and agriculture and nutritional advisory services are essential aspects of ensuring food security. Among African countries DR Congo has one of the highest burdens of malnutrition, especially among preschool children.
The prevalence of stunting is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Equateur province (where a rural research site will be located for the project) is the poorest province in the country. Prevalence of underweight, stunting and waisting is 28 %, 48.6 % and 10 % respectively. In addition there is a double burden of malnutrition, shown by rising prevalence of obesity, diabetes and hypertension, especially in urban areas. Anemia is a major problem with 53% women and 67% of pregnant women and 71 % of children under 5 affected nationwide.
The DR Congo government has a 5-year plan starting in 2011 on nutrition. The goal is to make research and intervention in order to reduce the burden of malnutrition and by way of decreasing mortality. In DR Congo, the pool of scientists and the range of research activities in the field of nutrition are very limited.
It is therefore a priority for University of Kinshasa to promote higher education and research in this field. More evidence of the burden and epidemiology of malnutrition and on effective intervention strategies is needed. Creating evidence is critical for policy development and implementation in sectors such as health, agriculture, planning, natural resource management and education.
Institutional capacity development at Kinshasa University through post-graduate education and research
The project will help develop institutional capacity at the School of Public Health at University of Kinshasa (SPHUK) by putting the institution in the position to establish, run and maintain nutritional epidemiological education and research programmes (Master and PhD in nutritional epidemiology).
Through the project it is envisioned that in addition to developing capacity of staff and programme delivery at SPHUK, the project will create capacity among government, NGOs and private role players especially in sectors working with food production, nutrition and health. The project will develop capacity in the field of nutritional epidemiology, which concerns the patterns, causes and solutions to nutritional problems, focusing in particular on the relation between diet and disease.
Education in nutritional epidemiology increases capacities that are central to the large burden of nutritional problems (food security, general malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies) across lifespan and the nutrition transition faced by DR Congo.
Teaching and research in this project will mainly concern important capacities related to i) surveillance of nutritional status of the population, iii) causes of malnutrition and nutritional causes of illness, and iii) experimental nutritional epidemiology, i.e. intervention research and impact research so that policy makers and implementers will be in a position to understand how healthful eating patterns among the population can be achieved and maintained. Research projects will include issues of gender roles, climate system and influence on policy development.
Key goals and achievements
The population in DR Congo is well-nourished and malnutrition is rare.
The objectives of the project are
- Increased capacity to deliver high quality education in nutrition epidemiology in NORHED supported School of Public Health, Kinshasa University
- Increased capacity to deliver relevant and high quality research at School of Public Health, Kinshasa University
- Appropriate infrastructure, policies and systems to ensure capacity to education and research at School of Public Health, University of Kinshasa
2013-2018: 18 million NOK
Contact persons for the project
Mapatano Mala Ali, Professor, School of Public Health, University of Kinshasa,
Anne Hatløy, Ass. Professor, Center for International Health, University of Bergen,
Frederick Veldman, Professor, University of Kwa Zulu Natal,