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Safeguarding child nutrition in the Philippines: IAEA Midterm Review Mission ignites strategic enhancements and collaboration

Dr. Victor Owino, a nutrition specialist from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), recently concluded a highly productive midterm review mission, which took place on June 6-8, 2023 in the country. The mission aimed at assessing the progress and requirements of the ongoing IAEA Technical Cooperation (TC) project, “Establishing the Association between Environmental Enteric Dysfunction and Linear Growth and Nutritional Status in Filipino Children Below Five Years”. The three-day visit also facilitated valuable engagements with key stakeholders.


Dr. Owino was formally welcomed by Dr. Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa, DOST-FNRI Director IV and Scientist IV, Ms. Rosemarie Dumag, Chief Science Research Specialist (SRS) of the Nutrition and Food Research & Development Division (NFRDD), and the DOST-FNRI project team led by Ms. Amster Fei Baquiran during his first day of visit to DOST-FNRI. The day began with an insightful discussion on the project’s progress, followed by a comprehensive tour of DOST-FNRI facilities.


Together with the DOST-FNRI project team, Dr. Owino proceeded to the DOST-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI). The DOST-PNRI is the IAEA’s national authority responsible for defining the priority development needs and interests to be supported by the Agency through TC activities. Dr. Owino participated in a facility tour and engaged in a constructive dinner meeting with Dr. Valerie Ann Samson, DOST-PNRI Deputy Director, and Ms. Ana Elena Conjares, Chief SRS of Technology Diffusion Division of DOST-PNRI and IAEA National Liaison Officer (NLO). The NLO serves as the primary contact person for matters related to IAEA in the country, facilitating effective communication and collaboration.


The second day of the mission focused on stakeholder interactions. Dr. Owino and the DOST-FNRI project team held separate meetings with representatives from the National Nutrition Council (NNC) and UNICEF Philippines.


On the final day of the visit, the project work plan underwent a comprehensive review and update. As the assigned Technical Officer for the TC project, Dr. Owino provided essential guidance on the necessary next steps to propel the project forward, taking into account the valuable insights and recommendations derived from the stakeholders’ meetings.


Unlocking the power of nuclear techniques for better nutrition: NFRDD’s Thursday Class opens


On June 8, 2023, this year’s inaugural Thursday Class with NFRDD was held with an insightful lecture on “Tackling nutritional challenges in the 21st century: how nuclear techniques help?” delivered by Dr. Owino. Hosted by the Nutritional Biochemistry Section, the webinar brought together 82 participants from DOST-FNRI and DOST-PNRI.


Dr. Owino's presentation commenced with an introduction of the IAEA, emphasizing its mission to support Member States in employing safe and non-invasive stable isotopes and related nuclear techniques. These techniques play a vital role in generating evidence required for effective policy formulation and program design to combat the double burden of malnutrition, which disproportionately affects low- and middle-income countries.


The lecture highlighted the significance of expanding biomarkers beyond anthropometry to better understand nutritional status. Dr. Owino showcased how stable isotope techniques accurately measure key nutrition factors including nutrient absorption, infant and young child feeding practices, and body fat accumulation.


Furthermore, Dr. Owino explored the principles behind using stable isotopes to assess protein quality, total vitamin A stores, and iron and zinc absorption. By sharing these insights, Dr. Owino underscored the invaluable role that stable isotope techniques play in advancing nutrition research and informed decision-making.


During the session, Dr. Owino also discussed the mechanisms through which the IAEA supports its Member States. Attendees were encouraged to participate in the IAEA's coordinated research projects and TC programs, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing for collective progress.


Additionally, Ms. Amster Fei P. Baquiran, Senior Science Research Specialist of the Nutrient Availability Unit, presented an overview of DOST-FNRI's previous and ongoing IAEA-assisted projects. Her talk highlighted the Institute’s remarkable capacities built over the years. She also shared future plans for DOST-FNRI as the leading agency in utilizing nuclear techniques for improved nutrition outcomes.

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