Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Food and nutrition security in Asia to be strengthened

Multi-stakeholder cooperation agreed by countries and partners

Bangkok, 08 Dec 2011 -- At the end of a two days FAO meeting, experts and key stakeholders coming from over 30 Asian countries agreed on the steps necessary for improving the region’s food and nutrition security, and established a network to stimulate multi-stakeholders cooperation.

Despite significant progress and increased prosperity,Asiahas made insufficient progress in reducing hunger and malnutrition. While the number of poor has fallen dramatically—from about 1.4 billion in 1990 to 900 million in 2010—the number of undernourished inAsiahas remained close to 600 million or 62 percent of the world total.

One in three children in developing countries under the age of five are stunted due to chronic undernutrition, and 148 million children are underweight.

Micronutrient or ‘hidden hunger’ affects around 2 billion people with serious public health consequences. 

“The combined effects of prolonged underinvestment in food, agriculture and nutrition, together with volatile and high prices for food and the steady increase in the frequency and severity of climate change induced natural disasters have led to the continuation of high food insecurity in the region”, noted Hiroyuki Konuma, the assistant director-general and FAO regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, during his welcome address to an forum meeting yesterday.

With underweight prevailing in around one in three children, the region has around 100 million children under the age of five suffering from stunting – in particular in South Asia and parts of Southeast Asia. In addition, non-communicable diseases are on the rise and place a double burden on nutrition and health workers.

We need to ensure that the poor have access to not only energy, protein and fats but also to micronutrients - that can be found also in wild and indigenous food – such as fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products and fish, the FAO statement emphasized.

Agriculture

Ensuring better food and nutrition security, the agricultural sectors needs to be critically reviewed in order to improve the supply of nutritionally valuable foods at affordable prices, and provide nutrition education at household level for the preparation and consumption of diversified, safe and quality foods.

“Agricultural policies directly influence human health and nutrition. In turn, health and nutrition policies affect the agricultural work force“, Mr Konuma stressed.

FAO and partners are advocating nutrition-sensitive food and agriculture based approaches that have nutrition improvements for all household members as explicit objectives. 

Globalization of food consumption

FAO and WHO have repeatedly expressed concerns over the impact of globalization on people’s food practices and consumption patterns.

As a consequence, local food systems have become increasingly vulnerable to the impact of volatile food prices and the poorest segments of populations, in particular in urban areas, are most negatively affected.

In 2013, FAO and WHO in cooperation with other UN organizations will convene an International Conference on Nutrition inRome.

Via a pre-recorded video, David Nabarro, the UN special representative on food security and nutrition presented the vision of the UN community.

Among others, Kraisid Tontisirin, president of the Thai Nutrition Association is in attendance as well as Dyno Keatinge, director general of the World Vegetable Center, William Collis, director of the World Fish Centre, Bev Postma, executive director-general of Food Industry Asia, and Yasuhiko Toride, director of nutrition improvement projects and associate general manager of the R&D planning department of AJINOMOTO Co., Inc, Japan.

Collaboration and participation to the Asian network is provided by UN sister agencies including the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and the UN Development Programme as well as international organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, the European Union and  the World Fish Centre.

Contact

Nomindelger Bayasgalanbat, FAO Technical Expert (Nutrition policies and programmes) based in Bangkok