16 Feb, 2018

Patrons pose for a group photo after the ceremony
United States Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, has recognized Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) for its achievement in producing the first cohort of five dietitians who have completed a 20-month rigorous training program.

Speaking on Wednesday, the 14th of February during a Nutrition Capacity Building Recognition Ceremony for the first dietetic cohort at Ufulu Gardens in Lilongwe, Palmer described the achievement as a significant milestone in Malawi’s nutrition strategy.

“Completion of studies represents the culmination of over a decade of work by the Malawi Government to improve the health of its citizens through integrated nutrition efforts that place special emphasis on vulnerable populations,” said the American Ambassador.

Palmer said the first cohort would work with the government to identify nutrition-based gaps that need to be addressed such as stunting, underweight children and hypertension, an ailment that can be solved through basic dietary changes.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its implementing partner, Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, teamed up with LUANAR and the College of Medicine to research, design and implement the Malawi Dietetic Program.

The American Ambassador urged graduates of the dietetic programme to collaborate with clinicians in the country who have not benefited from the training, to fight for the health of citizens through provision of nutrition-based solutions.

Among the officials present at the function was Chief of Health Services from the Ministry of Health, Dr. Charles Mwansambo. He said dieticians would need several tools in their daily work, citing “the Food Composition Table for Malawi” as one of the tools.

“It is our expectation that our new Malawian dietician graduates will deliver whatever they learned from classes to deal with the emerging problems of non-communicable diseases and also inspire the newly admitted cohort,” said Mwansambo.

He also acknowledged the US Government for the support towards the training of dieticians in the country through the Tufts University-Feed the Future Innovation Lab.

In an interview after the function, Associate Professor of Food Science and Dean of Food and Human Sciences Faculty at LUANAR, Dr. Agnes Mwangwela said the dietetics program being implemented by LUANAR with clinical support from College of Medicine is unique as it will produce dietitians who can attend to people with special needs.

“We realized that there are people with special needs in hospitals who need special care and the BSc in Nutrition and Food Science programme which we are currently offering will not cater for that so we approached government of Malawi and USAID for their support,” said Dr. Mwangwela.

“This programme is unique since there are three universities in it and we, as an agricultural institution, look at where food is coming from, how is it processed and how it is used; and the medical people (College of Medicine) come in to say for sick people, this is what we need. We have two disciplines and so far we have good quality graduates that we have produced.” She said.

LUANAR, with support from the Innovative Lab launched the first cohort of the Malawi Dietetic Program in March 2016. The first cohort of six students began the 20-month post graduate diploma in April, 2016. Of those, five students wrote a qualification examination in December 2017.

The program includes 12 months of rigorous didactic training; the remaining eight months are dedicated to supervised practice in clinical and community settings. The second cohort of 11 students is scheduled to begin in March this year (2018).