Rome -- Reaching an important milestone in the fight against global malnutrition, countries today agreed on policies aimed at ensuring that people around the world have access to healthier diets.
Following a series of intense negotiations representatives of FAO and World Health Organization (WHO) member countries reached consensus on a political Declaration and a voluntary Framework for Action including more than 50 recommendations.
“Agreeing on the Framework sends a powerful signal to the world: Member countries are really serious about nutrition,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said commenting on the agreement.
The Declaration and the Framework for Action will be adopted at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) to be held in Rome from 19-21 November 2014. This high-level intergovernmental meeting is jointly organized by FAO and WHO.
“ICN2 can play a critical role in promoting food security and nutrition,” the FAO Director-General said.
Graziano da Silva cited recent FAO estimates indicating that around 805 million people in the world are hungry and that half of the world’s population is affected by some sort of malnutrition.
In the agreed text of the Declaration, countries “acknowledge that malnutrition in all its forms, including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity, not only affects people’s health and wellbeing … but also poses a high burden in the form of negative social and economic consequences to individuals, families, communities and States.”
They furthermore commit to eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition worldwide and increase investments for effective interventions and actions to improve people’s diets and nutrition.
The Declaration states that “poverty, underdevelopment and low socio-economic status are major contributors to malnutrition in both rural and urban areas.”
Primary responsibility to tackle malnutrition rests on governments
In the Framework for Action, member countries recognize that “as governments have primary responsibility for taking action at country level, in dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders, including affected communities, the recommendations are principally addressed to government leaders.”
Recommendations include developing and implementing national plans and policies to improve nutrition, as well as increasing related investments, including Official Development Assistance (ODA).
This also calls for enhancing sustainable agriculture production in ways that ensure food security and enable people to have access to healthy diets.
Since the first international conference on nutrition in 1992, important advances in the fight against hunger and malnutrition have been made, but this progress has been insufficient and uneven. Malnutrition is responsible for about half of all child deaths under five years of age, causing over three million deaths every year.
Meanwhile, various forms of malnutrition often overlap and can coexist within the same country and even within the same household. Around 160 million children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished, while over two billion people suffer one or more micronutrient deficiencies. At the same time, another half billion are obese.
Heads of state and government, other dignitaries and leaders are expected to attend ICN2. Pope Francis has already confirmed his participation.