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FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

FAO and UN Partners vow to support governments in the NENA to advance sustainable food systems and healthy diets

Experts and policy-makers address challenges and open a door for a plan of action forbetter food security, healthier diets and improved nutrition.

The symposium brought together around 100 experts and policy-makers from across the region.

12/11/2017, Oman, Muscat– The social, economic, demographic and political changes that the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region has been going through during the last three decades, have greatly influenced the nature, scope and magnitude of health and nutrition problems - the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners announced yesterday on the closure of the multi-stakeholder regional symposium on diets and nutrition.

The two-day “Regional Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition in the Near East and North Africa” organized by FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the International Food Policy Research (IFPRI), brought together around 100 experts and policy-makers from across the region, to shed the light on the malnutrition situation in the NENA region. The forum was attended by representatives from the Committee on Food security (CFS) and from the Scaling-up Nutrition Movement (SUN).

The symposium discussed the “double burden” of malnutrition in the NENA region, where under-nutrition still persists, and the burden of overweight, obesity and diet-related chronic diseases has been accelerating at unprecedented rates. The event also allowed participants and food and nutrition experts to exchange experiences and ideas to help advance  the sustainable development goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Sessions and discussions included emphasis on the most persisting challenges to food security and nutrition, taking into consideration the food value chain, from production to consumption, on one hand, and addressing the various forms of malnutrition on the other.

In significance, the impact of conflict on the state of food security and nutrition was singled out as a major driver of food insecurity and malnutrition,  contributing to the rise of global hunger after declining for over a decade, Experts and speakers in the forum responded by highlighting the importance of building resilience; by strengthening capacities for developing coherent policy frameworks and investment programmes at national and regional levels.

Moreover representatives from countries and participants worked in discussion groups to address their priorities on food fortification. They also provided insight to the current vulnerabilities and debated country’s needs in their effort to address the issue of micronutrient malnutrition. The review of experiences and solutions to micronutrient deficiencis allowed the FAO and partners’ experts a deeper look into the uniqueness of the situation in each country

Participants highlighted  the critical  importance of addressing governance and coordination issues at national level, and on building inclusive platforms that bring together non-government organization, production organisations and the private sector as well as civil societies.

Participants in the shared their recommendations in the closing session. They stressed on the importance of integrated approaches to nutrition, that promotes sustainable agricultural production; while considering water scarcity and climate change and reducing the impact of reliance on international markets, particularly on vulnerable groups.

They called for stronger collaboration between all the UN agencies that support the nutrition agenda.

 “We pledge our expertise and work to all member countries in the region and we are here because we wanted to hear from you how we can ultimately, together, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – SDG 2 most importantly ” stated  Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative in NENA, Speaking on behalf of the UN organizations and partners present,  

“The recommendations of this forum will be submitting to the upcoming FAO Regional Conference for the Near East (NERC34) and we will endeavor to translate them into action”,  he added.

 The Near East and North Africa Symposium is one of five regional follow-up events stemming from the FAO and WHO International Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition held in Rome in December 2016. The International Symposium is part of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025, and focuses on the Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger.


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