Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific



Mr Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative or Asia and the Pacific

delivered at the

United Nations Regional Directors' Panel on Food and Nutrition Security

Hanoi, Viet Nam
25 September 2012


Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great honor to participate in this meeting and discuss the current global challenges. I wish first of all to express my appreciation to WHO for organizing this important meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam and inviting me in the event.

FAO estimates that a total of 925 million people were undernourished in 2010,which slightly reduced if  compared with 1.02 billion in 2009. However, the number of the chronic hungry people was higher in 2010 than before the food and economic crises of 2008–09 and higher than the level that existed when world leaders agreed to reduce the number of hungry by half at the World Food Summit in 1996. 

Micronutrient malnutrition or “hidden hunger” affects around 2 billion people (over 30% of the world population) with serious public health consequences. These vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially of iron, iodine, zinc and vitamin A, lead to poor physical growth and development, lowered mental capacities, reduced productivity, impaired immune systems, blindness and death - all of which are preventable.

Around the world, close to 10 million children die before their fifth birthday every year, over one-third of which are associated with undernutrition. One in three developing country children under the age of five (178 million children) are stunted due to chronic undernutrition and 148 million children are underweight.  Region with most undernourished people is Asia and the Pacific with almost 578 million (or 62 percent of the world total).

The situation continue to remain serious as the social inequality and income disparity are widening in many developing countries in Asia, despite of their rapid economic growth.  As a consequence, poor population often left behind of benefit of economic growth, and became more vulnerable especially when food price increases.  If food prices increase by 20-30 percent in short period, they practically can’t afford to buy adequate food to satisfy essential nutritional requirement, as they usually spend 60-70 percent of family income on foods.  They would have limited choices, either to go bed with hungry stomach and suffer from chronic hunger,  or join in food riots and create social unrest, if social safety nets are not provided to save them timely.

At the same time, around 1 billion adults are overweight and suffer from non-communicable diseases, of which around 300 million are obese. It is estimated that around 43 million children under five years of age are also overweight. The double burden malnutrition is now increasingly seen in developing countries and even within the same households.

Food is a fundamental human right , without which we can’t alive. Yet, on the same planet, nearly one billion people suffer from lack of sufficient food and cry for hungry, while at the same moment, almost equal number of one billion people enjoy more than adequate food they need and suffer from overweight.  This is an incredible social injustice exactly happening in this modern world where we live today!.  Can we accept this?

Ladies and gentlemen,

FAO is a specialized UN agency with a vision to create “A world free of hunger and malnutrition, where food and agriculture contributes to raising levels of nutrition, improving diets, and increasing the living standards of all, especially the poorest and most nutritionally vulnerable, in economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner.”

FAO has its mandate the raising of levels of nutrition and ensuring humanity's freedom from hunger by promoting sustainable agricultural and rural development. Focusing on the distinctive relationship between agriculture, food and nutrition, FAO works actively to protect, promote and improve established food-based systems as the most sustainable solution to ensure food and nutrition security, combat micronutrient deficiencies, improve diets and raise levels of nutrition and, by doing so, endeavour to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

FAO works with its Members and the international community to achieve the MDGs. Especially, MDG 1 “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” relates directly to hunger, which is the primary global issue of concern for FAO. Goal 1.C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. 

Despite of our continued efforts, the proportion of hunger in the total population in Asia and the Pacific region remains at around 16 percent against the MDG target of 10 percent. The slow progress was largely influenced by repeated food price crisis in past several years, widening of social inequalities and income disparities, negative impact of climate changes and natural disasters which occurred  more frequent than past decades, and other factors.  We need  concerted efforts and strong commitments at all levels to achieve the MDG target within remaining period of less than three years towards 2015.
FAO‘s nutrition strategy largely focuses to achieve greater impact at country level with a people- centred approach targeting the poorest and most vulnerable rural and urban households, and work together with partners. The key strategies that FAO focuses are:

  • Nutrition-sensitive agricultural development through food –based approach  which would maximize the impact of food and agriculture system on nutrition, and improve the nutritional status of people through increasing availability, access to and consumption of a nutritionally adequate diet from a variety of foods. This narrows the “nutrition gap” between what foods are available and what foods need to be available for good nutrition, by increasing year round availability, by producing more and ensure adequate and sustainable supply of foods at cheep and  affordable price, by promoting bio-fortification, and crop and agricultural diversification, by improving the nutritional content of food through varietal improvement, by promoting the income of poor farmers to enhance their access to nutritionally valuable foods, by promoting value addition to foods through preservation and processing, etc.
  • Improve food and agriculture governance for nutrition at country level: with a creation of more inclusive, participatory and evidence –based systems, promotion of multi-sectoral coordination mechanism and synergy, creation of common result framework, and monitoring and reporting system, etc.
  • Sustainable diets: aims at to promote a positive role of food biodiversity in human nutrition, as loss of diversity of food resources (60% of calories come from four food resources) resulted in high micronutrient malnutrition, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation.
  • Nutrition education  and consumer awareness on  safe and healthy diets: promote awareness of balanced nutrition intake, including the role of micronutrient, negative impact of over consumption and overweight, food safety, hygiene, etc.  School gardening is one of priority programme.
  • “Zero Hunger Challenge” launched by the UN Secretary-General in June 2012 at Rio+20 and fully supported by FAO DG to mobilize political will, boost small farmer productivity, establish sustainable food system, and cutting food waste.
  • SUN (scale up nutrition) to work together with UN sister agencies to focus concerted efforts to deal with mother-child undernoulishment during 1,000 day window
  • ICN +21 International Conference on Nutrition being jointly organized by WHO and FAO.

As a way forward, it is important that the interventions are people centered and well targeted reaching the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Agriculture sector alone cannot improve nutrition, either health cannot achieve the goal. Therefore, multisectoral approach is needed through harmonization of policies, better coordination of different sectors (specially health and agriculture) including other stakeholders such as the civil society, private sector, donors and others. As a long term sustainable solution, the further promotion of nutrition-sensitive agriculture development and food based approach is essential.  More specifically,

  • Harmonizing agriculture, food, health, education, social protection  and nutrition policies
  • Multi-sectoral coordination mechanism on nutrition and inclusive approach at country level
  • Promoting adequate and sustainable food supply at affordable price 
  • Improving access of the poor and disadvantaged groups to nutritionally balanced foods through poverty alleviation, social safetynets,etc.
  • Promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food-based approach as sustainable long term solution to improve nutrition
  • Reducing post harvest losses and food waste
  • Building up resilience  and coping mechanism to disasters, climate changes and food crisis
  • People centered and targeted nutrition interventions, with a special focus on maternal, infant and young child 
  • Building up a greater  nutrition awareness, social solidarity, partnership and resource mobilization

Thank you