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Letter to the editor

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Dear Editors,

Being a participant at the research conference organised by Action Against Hunger (AAH) at Nanterre, Paris in November 2019 was one of the most powerful experiences I have had so far as a nutrition researcher. This was my first experience of participating in an international nutrition related research conference such as this. One of the major observations I had was the incredible energy of the organisers, presenters and attendees of the conference over the two days. The programme was packed full of nutrition and nutrition related topics with an array of exciting teaching and lesson learning for better development. All the sessions were well attended by almost all the participants including high-profile scholars from different countries. I have no doubt that a lot of great learning experiences were achieved as a result. To highlight some of these among the many, I would like to mention the following points.

I found my participation at the conference to be one of the most inspiring moments of my career so far as a nutrition researcher. It was very exciting to find myself at such a high-class international conference surrounded by so many different scholars, both young and senior, all from different countries, institutions and backgrounds. Because of the fact that the participants represented multiple disciplines, the discussions and conversations were multidisciplinary in nature. Some of the subjects that caught my eye were nutrition in the context of climate change and social inequities, national scale-up, multisector collaborations, maternal mental health and nutrition, nutrition in humanitarian settings, implementation science and the link between nutrition and child health and development. Senior professors and researchers emphasised the holistic health and wellbeing of children as being a sign of success or achievement in nutrition interventions rather than the primary focus being anthropometric change. The long-term health consequences of accelerated growth and the ‘capacity load’ model were also discussed. All these exciting topics were extremely important lessons for someone like me who has had modest experience and exposure to such subject matters.     

The conference involved both oral and poster presentations that served to give participants such as myself exposure to global thoughts and agendas on nutrition related matters. Moreover, the experience of learning from and relating to experts and scholars was made to feel extremely relaxed with ample opportunity for discussions with these authorities on the subject during coffee breaks and lunch time. This provided a great opportunity to get to know, interact and share ideas with each other and to understand and learn from one another’s experiences.

Conducting research or undertaking other scientific activity that is restricted merely to one’s own institution and only to colleagues from one’s own organisation causes researchers to feel isolated and sceptical and to lose vision. Attendance at conferences like this gives researchers a sense of connectedness and the opportunity to realise that there are other scholars interested in their experience and work, who want to support and collaborate with them and who want to take their message and recommendations as a learning experience for further development.

It is my personal belief that it is of greater worth than gold to meet people who have the same vision and interest, who are working towards the same goal and who are motivated to support and collaborate with each other for the development of each other’s work and for society. It is also extremely exciting to discover that scholars from all over the world are interested in working together on agreed issues and are motivated to continue researching and finding solutions to areas where more understanding is needed.

Although my participation at the conference was simply as an attendee/audience member, making no contribution to either the oral or poster presentations, my experience of attending the conference has inspired me to prepare presentations and to participate as a speaker in international conferences in the future. I observed that most presentations were made from participants from the western world, probably because other scholars from backgrounds similar to mine may either lack the motivation or opportunity to participate in such world-class global conferences. In future, I aim to contribute as a speaker at other international conferences so as to help narrow this gap, increase diversity and to help to narrow the north/south divide.

I am very much thankful to the organisers of the conference, my partners/collaborators and colleagues who supported me and made my participation at this conference possible.

Yours,

Mubarek Abera 

 

Mubarek is lecturer and researcher in paediatric and child development, mental health and nutrition in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Jimma University, Ethiopia.

He is currently an investigator in the joint London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Jimma University, ENN and GOAL research partnership on Management of ‘at risk’ Mothers and Infants under six months (MAMI) research project, funded by the Eleanor Crook Foundation and it was under this project that he participated in the ACF Conference.

 

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Mubarek Abera (). Letter to the editor. Field Exchange 64, January 2021. p54. www.ennonline.net/fex/64/letter

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