The work begun by URV professor Maria Eugènia Vilella Nebot in Mozambique in 2007 to combat malnutrition on the island of Ibo has led to new forms of collaboration involving students and researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and Health. Through a project funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission, these collaborations will pave the way for a new research line in malnutrition at the URV.
Specifically, until 2022, five Mozambique students will study at the URV to complete their Bachelor’s or Master’s theses as members of research groups, and a doctoral student from the URV will carry out field work in Mozambique. There will also be an exchange of five professors and researchers between the URV and the Eduardo Mondlane University (Maputo) and Lúrio University (Nampula), who are also members of the project.
This Erasmus project will form part of another cooperation project by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (with support from URV Solidària), which funds initiatives from the university community for cooperation in development. This initiative will enable two students of Nutrition from Lúrio University to carry out an internship and Bachelor’s Thesis at the Infant Nutritional Support Centre on the island of Ibo, accompanied by Maria Eugènia Vilella and two professors from the Lúrio University. It will also allow a student on the Interuniversity Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Metabolism run by the URV and the UB to complete their master’s thesis at this centre.
A specialist in developing countries
The origins of these projects lie in the work of Professor Maria Eugènia Vilella Nebot, specialist in nutrition in developing countries. In 2010 she created the Infant Nutritional Support Centre in Ibo, with the Ibo Foundation, for studying, providing training in and treating infant malnutrition on the island. Nutritional intervention was also subject of Vilella’s thesis, who managed to reduce rates of malnutrition in children under the age of five on the island of Ibo and to encourage their mothers to adopt healthy nutritional habits.
Generating knowledge is necessary for achieving these three tasks, hence the proposal for the URV to have a research line in malnutrition, which responds to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Objective of zero hunger. By analysing dietary habits and nutritional data in the population, researchers will be able to design and implement a specific and sustainable intervention for the population with supplements based on the foodstuffs from the area, which will been to be reinforced with nutritional education and the promotion of food safety and hygiene.