"Nutrition, Health and Human Development in Africa: Breaking the downward trend"

As we prepare for the first ever FANUS conference to be held in Morocco from 7 th to 9 th May 2007. We should reflect on this theme:- "Nutrition, Health and Human Development in Africa: Breaking the downward trend". Each time one sees the term Sub-Saharan Africa anywhere, one expects it to be associated with a negative report or a not-so-pleasant orientation.

For some reason, it does not matter whether one is talking about health, food, or climate change indicators, or economic growth or the spread HIV/AIDS, it is all negative. Even when one talks about computer usage, or web-based information flow, or contribution to the body of world knowledge, it is all negative for Sub-Saharan Africa. As we contemplated on the theme of FANUS conference.

We put ourselves in a positive mode and wondered: what will it take to turn around the trend, and to begin to move us to some positive indicators? Without a healthy population, a nation cannot prosper. That is very clear. For most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, the story has not changed over the past nearly 4 decades, where the socio economic spiral has been on the downward trend.

This may be the First FANUS meeting to discuss these issues, but it is not the first international conference to do so. In previous FAO organized and IUNS meetings, the problems of sub-Saharan Africa in relation to food and nutrition security have been discussed. To the point where one feels embarrassed and asks what can be done to change these for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Clearly in Morocco, the message should be one of hope, culminating in a “we-can-do-it” outcome, and with each participating professional pledging to do something at their own level to try and effect positive change.

Often we sit back and say we are too poor to help ourselves, let alone anybody else. Yet, many inventions, or discoveries, or initiatives, are often “one person initiated”. What is important is to be able to move that idea from the head of an individual to the conscience of others who can help support it. We can no longer operate individually. It was probably much earlier in the past. Such words as collective action, collaboration, networking and participation make more sense today than in the past. Yet, all those words can only apply to action, or implementation phase , but not to thinking. Each one of us thinks individually. In a fast moving world of modern information technology, there is really time to THINK. Yet, innovators must take time to THINK. For much of Sub-Saharan Africa, causes of food insecurity and thus malnutrition remain largely the same: low agricultural productivity due partly to poor use of inputs and modern technology, civil and border wars and conflict which displace people and thus stifle their productive capacity, disease some of which was believed eradicated but is now re-emerging such as tuberculosis, Malaria, typhoid and so on, new diseases such as HIV/AIDS, water communicable diseases as result of poor sanitation and show dare of masses potable water, and with all this finally, showed economic growth as more and more Africans reel in abject poverty. One of the major outcomes of the slow economic development of Africa, is donor dependency and inability to innovate. Africa has many friends, development friends, willing to come to the rescue of the continent and keep, to see that Africa does not get deleted from the technological advancement map. Such support is more than welcome. But the kind of support that comes with strings attached creates dependency, removes innovativeness and indeed indignifies a people. As one spends a few days in Finland or thereabouts in the winter, one comes to the quick conclusion that necessity is indeed the mother of innovation. But then, how come, we Africans who necessarily need food cannot invent ways of ensuring that our masses who go hungry have assured access to a decent meal everyday?

There is no doubt that donor dependency is quite indignyfying it robs a people of their innovative and thinking ability. Donor dependency removes “responsibilities” from a nation. Each time they need to tackle an issue of national importance and proceed to look for outside funding, what is the message here? To whom shall such a country owe ? And how much does this affect a country’s ability to generate its own resources?

Why have we proceeded on this line of thinking?

The FANUS conference provides a great opportunity to innovate in our thinking, for African professionals to come up with some home- grown solution to change the course of things, and try to reverse the downward trend. Africa’s socio economic indicators .

We must however remember that it does not matter how much good work we do. So long as we do not share it through publishing, nobody will ever get to know about it.

I wish to encourage us all to step up our publication of research findings, theses and indeed our thoughts and opinions.

Wishing you all a great First FANUS CONGRESS.

Ruth Oniang’o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND

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