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close this bookSCN News, Number 19 - Nutrition and Healthy Agents (UNSSCN, 1999, 84 p.)
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Chairman's Message

TIME FOR A NEW PERSPECTIVE

The new millennium is here. It is now time to go beyond what our eyes see - like the young woman on the cover of this issue - and explore avenues not so readily perceptible to us -like the older woman on the cover of this issue. As we age our physical eyesight may become less sharp; however, our wisdom sharpens. We must begin to see things we have failed to see before, to find and nurture "bold and imaginative" solutions to nutrition problems that plague the world.

To celebrate the United Nations international Year of Older Persons, "Nutrition and Healthy Ageing", featured in this issue of SCN News, begs the question: Should scarce resources, research funds, time and energy be allocated to our older population? May I answer unequivocally, in a human society: yes; in the millennium: yes; and in a world that begins to take human rights seriously: yes. It is projected that in 20 years there will be twice as many older people in the world, and 70% will live in developing countries. A radical change in our perception is needed: older people are not "burdens" or "problems" needing charity, as contributing author, Dr Suraiya Ismail explains, but rather carers of children, advisers, teachers, guardians of culture, and volunteers for numerous community projects. We must combat ageism and put a human face on policies and institutions affecting our older population. Ageing is a process which, hopefully, will affect all of us - and our quality of life.

In the spirit of examining issues from a fresh perspective, I look forward to an exciting agenda planned by our Interim Program Steering Committee (IPSC) for our 27th Session in Washington DC, 10-14 April 2000, jointly hosted by UNICEF and the World Bank. The topic will be "Nutrition Stocktaking and the Challenges for the 21st Century". The global nutrition situation at the turn of the millennium will be reviewed and the SCN will develop a strategic plan for inter-agency coordination of programmes aimed at accelerating action to reduce malnutrition in the next decade. The IPSC has re-arranged our usual schedule to better accommodate the needs of all the Working Groups. The symposium on 11 April will be devoted to reactions to our Fourth Report on the World Nutrition Situation from the head of a UN agency, an expert development economist, and a prominent bilateral development minister. The Fourth Annual Abraham Horwitz Lecture will be presented in the afternoon.

I am pleased to announce that Dr Namanga Ngongi of WFP has been chosen as the incoming Chair of the ACC/SCN, supported by all SCN members and formally endorsed by the ACC in October. Dr Ngongi was named Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme in 1994, after a decade of service with WFP. His positions included Director of Development Operations, Deputy Director of Operations, Deputy Director of External Relations, and Regional Bureau Manager of the West and Central Africa Bureau and of the East and Southern Africa Bureau. He was appointed First Secretary at the Cameroon Embassy in 1980 and later promoted to Counsellor. During this period he was responsible for relations between Cameroon and the Rome-based United Nations agencies. Dr Ngongi holds a Masters and Doctorate in Agronomy from Cornell University. Dr Ngongi and I will be working closely together during the next year, until he formally takes over as Chair in January 2001.

All of us within the SCN will be saddened by the news of the tragic death of Dr Lilian Tendayi Marovatsanga, our former AGN member. Lilian was head of the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Family Sciences in Harare, Zimbabwe. She spoke tirelessly as the voice of those less fortunate in terms of nutrition and health rights as evidenced by her lively contributions to our last symposium (SCN News No. 18, pp 75,80). We appreciated her commitment and willingness to act as an independent, external expert for the Secretariat and the SCN member agencies. The SCN extends its deepest sympathy to her family.

The SCN also extends its sympathy to the people of Tanzania, whose recent loss of "Mwalimu", President Julius Nyerere, was strongly felt by many people around the world. President Nyerere was a principled and incorruptible statesman whose ideas about education and health were progressive. The Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre presented an award to President Nyerere for his contributions in support of improving the nutritional status of all Tanzanians. In 1985 President Nyerere focused the world's attention on the devastating impact of international debt when he asked the Queen of England, "Must we starve our children to pay our debts?" This issue of SCN News carries an analysis of debt relief by Harvard economist, Dr Jeffrey Sachs. Could debt relief be linked to actions for nutrition, to develop "bold and imaginative" strategies to reduce the magnitude of malnutrition facing us? One year ago we appealed to make 1999 a year of "nutrition enlightenment" for everyone's benefit and we have all been challenged by the Commission's Report which identified eight major nutritional challenges at our last session. Now the year 2000 is here, the millennium has opened. I summon the SCN triumvirate: let us find new vision and new energy to put the scourge of mass malnutrition behind us.