Article published on 16 January 2024
last modification on 15 February 2024

In the course of the Second World War, numerous cases of malnutrition are observed among the prisoners and in the populations of the under-developed countries where Western armies are called upon to reside or which they pass through in transit. These observations induce governments to hold a conference in Hot Springs, U.S.A., in May-June 1943, where it is decided to broaden and to coordinate the research on nutrition. France takes on the responsibility of creating, in its African territories, on the one hand, organisations to determine the areas and the frequency of malnutrition and, on the other hand, to take measures to halt its progress.

Thus, in 1946, "The Anthropological Mission of French West Africa", directed by L. Pales*, is created. It undertakes, in the context of an investigation - anthropometric, physiological, biochemical and even psychological - a study of nutrition over two-thirds of French West Africa. This mission functions for a period of thirty months, from January 1946 to August 1948. In 1949, Bergouniou* reorients the research activity towards the detection of protein deficiency.

Forest savannah in Casamance

In 1953, the ORANA is created. Its Director, Raoult*, and the Heads of Departments are physicians and chemists of the Colonial Health service. Until the granting of Independence to African states, thanks to the excellence of its laboratories and the experienced teams of native investigators, this establishment gains a reputation in the following domains :

 The analysis of African foodstuffs.
 The definition of nutritional needs.
 The investigation of domestic food consumption as well as the psycho-sociology of nourishment.
 The study and detection of deficiency diseases and their prevention.
 The study of food supplements from local produce in order to ensure child protection.

In the 1960s, a research programme led by Toury* deals with aflatoxin, produced by mildew on peanuts, which causes cancer in some animals.

Gradually, nutritional problems are dealt with by the Service for Great Endemics. After Independence, the ORANA becomes a part of the OCCGE.

Besides, throughout Black Africa, similar research institutes are created, notably in Abidjan. Research workers of the ORSTOM work with the colonial military personnel. Collaboration with research organisations in developed countries makes it possible to determine the nutritional particularities and the nutritional pathology of Black Africa. In this whole network, the ORANA, which still functions today, remains an indispensable element.