More than what I could ask for

This past few weeks have been incredible, with several activities going on. Even though I knew working at the World Health Organization (WHO) will be more of a multicultural experience, it has been more of that even outside of the office. The week started well with me doing a desk review of the National Health Policy (NHP), Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP I & II) as well as the 5-Year Program of Work (5YPOW) of Ghana which I was due to present during an upcoming Team meeting.  This involves reading the available policy documents either soft or hard copies and strategically analyzing the information in terms of the time frame of the plan of work, the scope of coverage of vulnerable  population sub groups, issues on infant and young child feeding, multivitamin deficiencies and programs to address them. In addition, I had to do an analytical review of what policies they had on elimination of infectious diseases like HIV/ AIDS, TB and malaria as well as policies on agriculture, trade and the state of legislative code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes in the country. Ghana is described as one of the 36 high burdened countries as described by the WHO based on the indicator that they have an over 20% rate of stunting. During the 1992 International Conference on Nutrition (ICN) in Rome, member states agreed to develop National Plans of Action for Nutrition (NPAN) which will address major nutritional issues in their countries in terms of the priority areas. A global consensus was reached to address the following objectives or working areas that was of priority at the time. The themes were:

· incorporating nutritional objectives, considerations and components into development policies  and programmes;

· improving household food security;

· protecting consumers through improved food quality and safety;

· preventing and managing infectious diseases;

· promoting breast-feeding;

· caring for the socio-economically deprived and nutritionally vulnerable;

· preventing and controlling specific micronutrient deficiencies;

· promoting appropriate diets and healthy lifestyles;

· assessing, analysing and monitoring nutrition situations.

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A review of Ghana's NHP and 5YPOW indicated that each of the nine working areas and objectives had been considered and programs have been developed to address some of the issues. This is still very much work in progress with the Ministry of Health as the main implementing and coordinating body and the Ghana Health Service as the main operational face of the ministry. Different 5YPOWs have been developed over the years and the current one spans the period between 2007 and 2011. This living document has been developed at a time when the government is accelerating its efforts towards wealth creation and poverty reduction as part of its goal of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The priorities and strategies spelt out have been developed within the framework of the government's development agenda as stated in the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy papers and the three priority areas of transforming Ghana into a Middle Income Country by the year 2015 which are Private Sector Development, Good Governance and Human Resource Development. Other stakeholders and  agencies like the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP), WHO, UNICEF, GAIN and FAO serve as  developmental partners offering financial and technical support for these nutrition intervention programs in the country. I will bring you more of what my work entails and how this whole global nutrition policy review began and how this crucial work will help countries scale up actions towards nutrition.

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working cheerfully behind my desk on a bright sunny day


Life after work is so much fun and very multicultural as well. I thought I was going to be immersed in a lot of European culture and yes! I get more of that when I am in town as well as WHO where I hear a lot of people speaking French or German or Italian as well as their mannerisms. On the other hand though is my encounter with the Kenyan culture. My hostess is a Kenyan and she has a large group and network of friends who are Kenyans as well working in various UN agencies and the Kenyan mission here in Geneva. She had recently moved into her new apartment and organized a house-warming party where I ate among other things "chapati", more like tortilla made with unbleached wheat flour and "Pilau rice" made with chicken and the Pilau spice which is a very typical meal in Kenya. It was so fun meeting a lot of very friendly Kenyans. I even made a new young friend called Prince.

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Pilau rice

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Chapati

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Prince and I

Within that same week on Friday, Joseph, our Kenyan friend who is interning at the UN headquarters invited us for a Kenyan dinner of "Ugali". We were so excited that my colleague at work, Giulia (Italian) who was not familiar with eating with the bare hands and fingers ended up making the chicken sauce that was to go with the Ugali! In the end, she mastered the art of eating Ugali and chicken without cutlery! We had so much fun after which we watched a movie and ate some delicious chocolate ice cream for dessert. It was just a nice way to round up the week and enjoy a Friday night!

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Giulia and I busy in the kitchen

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Jacquline, Joseph and Giulia


Saturday was no different and the fun continued. My uncle's friend whom I had met at WHO took his nephew and I round for a ride and later to the famous lake parade of Geneva and this was definitely a crossroad of cultures! The lake road was filled with people from all over the world and people dressed in funny clothing happily moving about and dancing following the trucks that carried people with live music. Other trucks also seemed to be advertising for one product or selling drinks to people who were thirsty long the parade route and others just sat along the road to watch it all.

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Dr. Dovlo and I at the parade

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Rudy and I

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