The University of Ottawa, along with Université Laval and the Université d'État d'Haïti, is launching the first Summer Institute in Community Nutrition and Public Health Agriculture in Haiti, part of the Canada-Haiti Academic Projects Scholarship. The Summer Institute meets the need for capacity-building in nutrition to address the urgent food and nutrition situation of Haitian families caused by the 2010 earthquake.
With funding from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and technical support and funding from the offices of UNICEF and the World Food Program in Haiti, the intensive two-week program will take on a major obstacle to improving nutritional health in Haiti: the absence of staff with the requisite skills in nutrition science to implement projects and training programs.
The community nutrition component of the Summer Institute is led by professors Dia Sanou and Malek Batal of the Faculty of Health Sciences, along with their colleagues from the Université d'État d'Haïti and United Nations specialized agencies. The goal of the section is to, at once, develop the teaching of nutrition in existing university programs and, at the same time, strengthen the skills of professionals in the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population and in non-governmental organizations in the area of nutrition.
The percentages reported for different forms of malnutrition in Haiti are very high. For example, well before the earthquake, chronic malnutrition affected a quarter of children. Despite increased efforts to control malnutrition since the 2010 earthquake, the country is still dealing with a glaring shortage of nutrition professionals, because there still isn't any training program in this area in Haiti, explains Professor Sanou.
This pioneering project is a clear reflection of our university's interest in in the Francophonie and in international development. We have a duty to pass on our knowledge to the community, especially in the poorest countries. I hope that our contribution can be, at least in part, the beginning of a response to the huge needs of the country, says Professor Batal.
The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, chancellor of the University of Ottawa and UNESCO special envoy for Haiti, will attend the opening ceremony May 28 in Port-au-Prince, to show her support for this initiative.