ASEAN countries pledge to improve nutrition policies through inter-sectoral coordination
The member states of ASEAN have taken a major step forward in pledging to work across various government ministries to improve nutrition at national level and strengthen nutrition governance through inter-sectoral coordination, an ASEAN consultation convened jointly by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the ASEAN secretariat announced today.
The multi-sectoral consultation, involving Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Rural Development, Planning and Social Welfare, are focusing on food security and nutrition to address all forms of malnutrition. The consultation, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the German Foundation GIZ, is the first of its kind in ASEAN. It was convened to take forward the recommendations of the Rome Declaration on Nutrition from the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in 2014 in order to lay a concrete foundation for promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food-based approaches in ASEAN that would help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Among the outcomes, the Rome Declaration on Nutrition stressed the need for government ministries to work together to achieve comprehensive improvements to nutrition at national level.
FAO, WHO, GIZ and ASEAN have been working closely together in recent years to improve nutrition and better prepare countries for future food security.
“I can say that FAO is a proud partner with ASEAN which has shown its determination in moving toward a food-secure future for its citizenry and ASEAN has placed nutrition at its core mandate and has incorporated nutrition into the ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework and Its Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security (2015-2020),” said Vili A. Fuavao, FAO’s Deputy Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, noting that nutrition is also an explicit part of ASEAN’s “Vision, Objectives and Goals of the ASEAN Cooperation in Food, Agriculture and Forestry sector towards 2020.”
To address the multiple underlying causes of malnutrition concurrently, collaboration and coordination on food security and nutrition among multiple sectors such as agriculture, public health, food safety, rural development and social protection, through the implementation of joint strategies and programmes, is crucial in accelerating progress toward better nutrition. The participants have heard that greater progress can be made if nutrition objectives, concerns and considerations were to be explicitly integrated into national agricultural and food system policies, strategies and investment in order to achieve food security and goals to improve malnutrition, health and development.
Agriculture at the heart of improved nutrition
Nutrition-sensitive agricultural development plays a critical role by improving the food and agriculture-based aspects of nutrition security and dietary diversity and helping narrow the ‘nutrition gap’ by increasing the availability, access and actual consumption of a diverse range of safe and nutritious foods.
The Asia-Pacific region, despite impressive economic growth, is still home to 490 million people living with chronic hunger, some 62 percent of the world’s undernourished people. Stunting of children remains a serious challenge, with the prevalence over 40 percent in several countries. While each of the ASEAN countries achieved the Millennium Development Goal on reducing the proportion of hunger (MDG-1C), undernourishment remains a problem across the region.
Promoting sustainable, nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food security policies, programmes and investment plans is therefore key to ensuring actions are taken to prioritize nutrition across the entire food and agriculture system. This can help improve the availability, accessibility and affordability of safe and nutritious food and promote healthy and sustainable diets.