FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
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Reviving Food Based Dietary Guidelines for the Marshall Islands

23/04/2021 Marjuro, RMI

Revision of food based dietary guidelines that are specific to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is being undertaken by the RMI Government and FAO after laying dormant for over two decades.

Two staff from the RMI Ministry of Health and Human Services (RMI MOHHS) documented a brief at a nutrition conference held in Fiji in 2018 that rekindled the interest of FAO in the original 1995 single-page RMI Nutrition Guidelines.

In its renewed effort to develop a comprehensive Food Based Dietary Guideline (FBDG) for the RMI, FAO has responded to a concerted national effort by providing funds, retaining the services of an International Consultant, National Consultant, and set December of this year as target completion date.   Jack Niedenthal, the Secretary of Health for the Marshall Islands, said, “I am encouraged to see that we are finally moving forward with these guidelines as we have one of the worst diabetes rates in the world, and it keeps getting worse.  These new dietary guidelines will help with changing that trend.”

The RMI National Nutrition Stakeholders Group completed its second consultation on Friday, March 19 at the Marshall Islands Resort. In his opening statement, Joseph Nyemah, FAO Nutrition and Food Systems Officer for the Pacific Islands praised participants for their commitment to developing a national FBDG that will make RMI one of five countries in the Pacific to join Fiji in having this very important guidance for their population. “With the increasing rates of noncommunicable diseases, this time couldn’t better for RMI to work on this guidelines.”  

The overall focus of the consultation was to review the 95’ guidelines and draw comparisons in relation to the 2002 Food Based Dietary Guidelines and the subsequent 2018 Pacific Guidelines to Healthy Living, both published by the Pacific Community (SPC). The stakeholders group went further to discuss nutritional literature developed by other organizations such as the WHO, UNICEF, and FAO. Erlynda Chutaro of the RMI MOHHS, and FAO-RMI Focal Point, emphasises that “the RMI Government is very excited about this project and appreciates the support from FAO.”

Before drafting a RMI National Healthy Living Lifestyle booklet, MoHHS staff and National Consultant will hold similar consultations with relevant groups on Majuro and later on Ebeye. Once consultations are completed, the National Stakeholders Group will reconvene to hash out the final document, which will be submitted for endorsement by the RMI Government and appropriate offices. Once the process is completed, publication and dissemination via print and voice media, and the internet will commence.

FAO, along with several regional bodies, has long been a key player in humanitarian assistance efforts to a number of pacific island countries.