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Re : S'entendre sur la terminologie

Etienne du Vachat Action contre la Faim - ACF (Action Against Hunger), France
23.08.2012
Etienne

Dear colleagues, dear moderator,

ACF International (Action Contre la Faim) would like to share a few idea on the terminology discussion. We hope these remarks can contribute to clarifying what is at stake in this important debate from a nutrition standpoint. We very much welcome your comments and reactions.

With best regards,

Etienne du Vachat
Advocacy Officer

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ACF (Action Contre la Faim) welcomes this very clear and useful document in the frame of the CFS work aiming at clarifying different concepts and the evolutions of definitions. These, over the last few years, have had a very strong influence on how public policies are both shaped and implemented at the international as well as national levels. This is why it is very important that new definitions actually reflect how we view the current and future priorities.

We fully believe it is essential to re-emphasize existing strong linkages between food security and nutrition. We also believe it is critical to clarify terminologies and concepts which are sometimes used in an interchangeable way or in imprecise manner, leading to confusion.

ACF is however not in favour of the final recommendation made in the CFS document to promote the combined terminology “Food and Nutrition security” for the following reasons:
- Food Security and Nutrition Security are two different concepts or “conditions”, although the links between the two are strong and must be stressed, especially to better align food security policies and programmes to nutritional security targets, which is a key aspect to be addressed to sustainably combat both under- and over-nutrition. This is well reflected throughout the document.
- Food Security is “only” one precondition to nutrition security, along with others (such as adequate water, sanitation and hygiene environment and health and care practices), as reflected in the UNICEF malnutrition conceptual framework.
- Combining the two concepts tends to under-emphasize the links between nutrition and the other underlying causes of undernutrition (inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene environment and health and care practices) by focusing solely on food security (one but not the only, nor the main cause of undernutrition). The proposed definition for Food and Nutrition Security even go further by putting the environment, health and care practices as background elements, serving only to "support” food security.
- The value of the current Nutrition Security terminology is that it stresses that a range of conditions are required simultaneously to guarantee, in the long run, a good nutrition situation
- A last point is that the two concepts of Food Security and Nutrition Security are already largely mingled by many people, and many still tend to believe that undernutrition is only a matter of food and often only food availability, which is far from reality. The combined terminology has the potential to pursue this misconception.

Consequently, in line with the rational detailed in the CFS document, ACF recommends to:
- Stick to the 2 current distinct terminologies instead of a combined one : Food Security on one hand, Nutrition Security on the other, stressing the distinction but also the strong linkages between the two: Food Security is a precondition of Nutrition Security and should always aim at contributing to Nutrition Security ;
- To better clarify what the document is aiming at, we think “undernutrition”, “overnutrition”, “Severe Acute Malnutrition” and “Global Acute Malnutrition” must be more clearly technically defined in the document
- Possibly reinforce the strong links between Food Security and nutrition through an emphasis in the Food Security definition stressing that the core and ultimate aim of food security should be a good nutrition (as a precision to “healthy life”).

As an additional comment, with regard to the underlying causes of undernutrition, we recommend sufficient attention is being paid to water; there can be no food security without water, it is needed to produce food at the production level (farming) and therefore has a direct impact on food availability; it also has a direct impact on the safety of food (hygiene). Water is correspondingly important at the household level where is it required for not only cleaning particular foods but also for cooking to make the food consumable and to optimise access and utilisation of the nutrients in food at the physiological level. At the individual level, water is essential to keep the body well hydrated and to ensure the body is at its physiological peak to digest and metabolise the food consumed. Finally, water is required not only for food hygiene but also for personal hygiene (hand washing) to prevent disease.