The scientific symposium entitled (Addressing the Challenges of Hidden Hunger)

21 October 2020

On behalf of the president of University of Technology-UOT (Prof. Dr. Ahmed Al-Gaban) and the direct supervision by Prof. Dr. Abdullhamed Al-Obaidy who is the director of Environment Research Center (ERC)-UOT

The ERC held in cooperation with the Nutrition Research Institute-Public Health Directorate-Ministry of Health and Environment a scientific symposium online using the ZOOM platform entitled (Addressing the Challenges of Hidden Hunger) on 22/9/2020 at 9.00 p.m. This symposium was electronically managed by Dr. Mukheled A. Hussien (head of scientific activity committee at ERC) as a coordinator with the assistance of Mrs. Zahraa Z. Farhan (lecturer at ERC).

The first lecturer, Dr. Mohammed Jasim Ahmed (FICMS/CM, Nutrition Research Institute) gave a lecture within the first part of this symposium under the title “Health Food Strategy in Iraq”. The lecturer showed the importance of the plan "National Nutrition Strategy" prepared by the Ministry of Health and Environment in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund from 2012 to 2021. This plan aimed to develop a sound basis in terms of planning, organizing and managing the public sectors related to nutrition, ensuring the improvement of health and nutritional status of the Iraqi individual. The lecturer discussed the nutritional indicators in almost Iraqi governorates and addressed malnutrition diseases for children under the age of 5 years in conjunction of disease of Anemia (deficiency in the iron element), vitamins and others. For dealing with these cases, a practical program was adopted in fortifying basic foodstuffs such as wheat flour using premix to increase the proportion of iron and salt iodization. In addition, many programs have been adopted to support food for school students and spread health awareness in these schools in particular and society in general. The lecturer recommended the necessity of scientific and research cooperation between academic institutions such as universities and research centers and the directories of Ministry of Health and Environment in order to develop methods of fortifying food with the necessary elements to prevent the occurrence of diseases harmful to public health.

While the second lecturer Assist. Prof. Basim H. Faraj (lecturer in the Department of Sustainable Development-ERC) gave a lecture within the second part under the title "Biofortification for Sustainable Diet". The lecturer stated that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has defined a sustainable food system as a system that provides healthy food containing micro-elements (micronutrients) of vitamins and minerals (which are essential components of a high-quality diet) to meet current nutritional needs in conjunction with keeping healthy ecosystems that can provide food for the next generations at the minimal negative impact on the environment. These micronutrients are the essential components that can directly affect human health where their lack at the minimum level can cause what is called “Hidden Hunger”. For example, zinc element plays a vital role in participating in a wide range of biological activities of cells, and thus its decrease negatively affects the performance of these cells. To achieve a sustainable food strategy, the biofortification plays a fundamental role in enriching economic plants with micro-nutrients or vitamins that are unable to produce them at all or produce them in limited quantities. In order to alleviate hidden hunger, the traditional method of enriching crops with micro-elements such as foliage spraying or through soil additions or added with irrigation water. However, some strategic crops for physiological or anatomical reasons and others cannot absorb micronutrients and then they transfer them in the plant, so it is possible to apply a method in terms of genetic foundations without changing the genetic material such as selection and hybrid. Also, in some cases, these methods do not work because they require to transfer genes related to the absorption of elements or the manufacture of some biological compounds between individuals who are genetically distant organisms, and thus genetic engineering technology can be used.

The lecturer recommended at the end of his lecture that it is necessary to determine the needs of the Iraqi individual based on surveys by the Ministry of Health and Environment and then going towards research programs for the treatment in terms of the adoption of a national program. This program can be participated by the relevant specialized sectors in cooperation with the Nutrition Research Institute.

Finally, the participants were allowed to discuss, express opinions and dialogue with the lecturers, which finally led to establish a set of recommendations. These recommendations will be actively considered and announced later.

In conclusion, the Director of ERC expressed his sincere gratitude to both lecturers and all participants for attending in this symposium

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