Bureau régionales de la FAO pour le Proche-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord

FAO, BEL Egypt team up to raise nutritional awareness, promote healthy eating habits for Egyptian children

Cairo, 23 June 23 2022 - Children's undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies continue to pose the biggest nutritional health burden worldwide. Diets that lack diversity, nutritional value, and food safety are frequently to blame for childhood malnutrition.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Bel Egypt signed a framework for cooperation and coordination today with the goal of increasing nutritional awareness and promoting healthy and responsible habits in children across Egypt, driven by a common goal to promote healthy nutrition and combat malnutrition issues in Egypt.

The agreement was signed at the FAO headquarters in Cairo, in the presence of Abdel Hakim Elwaer, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative in the Near East and North Africa, Nasr El-Din Haj El-Amin, FAO Representative in Egypt, Caroline Chesneau, Head of Nutrition Department at Bel Group, and Haitham Issam, Bel Group's Head of Human Resources for the Middle East and Iran.

The agreement calls for the creation and implementation of a digital educational campaign on healthy and responsible nutrition and eating habits among children throughout Egypt, in collaboration with the Ministries of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Education, and the Egyptian Knowledge Bank. It also entails printing children's books and converting them into animations to support the campaign, as well as creating digital content for this purpose through an internet platform.

"While young children are the most vulnerable to malnutrition, everyone has the right to adequate food and proper nutrition. Malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and obesity are problems that exist in all countries and social and economic classes," said Abdel Hakim Elwaer at the Press conference.

"In many countries in the region, the food security situation, as well as humanitarian and economic crises, have a negative impact on access to healthy food, purchasing power, and dietary patterns. It also has a negative impact on the nutritional status of the most vulnerable groups, such as children, adolescents, girls, and women. This is the first partnership with the private sector aimed at raising nutritional knowledge and promoting healthy and responsible habits among children in Egypt”, Elwaer added.

The health and humanitarian crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have aggravated the food security and nutrition situation. Furthermore, global food prices reached all-time highs in 2022. The conflict in Ukraine threatens to disrupt global supplies of wheat, maize, and other commodities, as well as fertilizers, placing additional pressure on prices and posing new challenges to food security in many countries.

Caroline Chesneau, Bel Group Nutrition Director said, “Acting towards a better nutrition and a better nutritional education is more vital than ever. We are convinced, at Bel, that as a leader in the food industry, we have a role to play to contribute at our level to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. They are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They are ambitious, and if we all make positive changes, we can together make a positive impact”. 

 “We want to be part of the solution through our products (with for instance The laughing cow fortified in Iron, Iodine, Zinc and vitamins A &D), and also by going beyond. This is why we are very proud to sign this common framework with FAO, in order to raise children awareness about health and better nutrition in Egypt. Changing behavior to promote dietary patterns with positive impacts on human health is one of the pathways to follow towards food system transformation, that we fully support,” Chesneau added.

Emerging challenges such as climate change, environmental sustainability and rapid technological shifts are changing diets and raising questions about how to feed a growing global population in sustainable ways. At the same time, uneven economic growth, socio-economic transformations, and other factors are shaping food and nutrition systems. As a result, the prevalence of overweight, obesity and related diseases is increasing while undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies persist.

FAO's mission is to ensure food and nutritional security for all, improve diets and combat micronutrient deficiencies and all forms of malnutrition.

Agricultural development is people-centered and leads to better availability, access and consumption of safe and diversified foods for better nutrition.

Children who are undernourished are usually more likely than others to contract infectious diseases. Their mental development is also at risk, impeding their academic achievement, thus reducing their chances of getting jobs and earning income in the future. Poor nutrition of mothers and children is also the main reason why poverty is passed on from one generation to another. Stunted girls—whose height growth is slow due to poor nutrition—remain short when they get older compared to other adults. A mother's short stature is the strongest predictor of low birth weight and stunted infants.

The FAO Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa, the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, the UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, and the World Food Program Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa held a high-level meeting to accelerate action on undernutrition in mothers and children. The meeting also brought together high-level representatives from the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Planning, Social Security (Social Welfare), and Education, and a wide range of stakeholders including academia, research institutions, civil society, and representatives of regional and country offices from the four United Nations agencies.

The meeting's goal was to support low- and middle-income countries that are dealing with high levels of undernutrition and food insecurity, as well as to call for action to address maternal, infant, and child undernutrition in the Middle East and North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Arab region, using a systemic approach that takes into account all life stages.