Food Security

Globally hunger still underlies 45% of child deaths

Global child hunger still high
Child hunger.jpg

Although the prevalence of undernourishment globally has declined moderately, it remains high with an estimated 805 million people suffering from chronic hunger during the past two years.

Undernutrition was the main underlying cause of death in children under five, causing 45% of all child deaths in the world in 2013.

These are some of the facts that the ministers and representatives of the member countries of The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were confronted with at the Second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome from 19 to 21 November 2014.

The conference reaffirmed “the right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.”

According to the Conference Outcome Document (COD), 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.

The root causes and factors leading to malnutrition are said to be complex and multidimensional and include poverty, underdevelopment and low socio-economic status as well as the lack of access at all times to sufficient food. Malnutrition is often aggravated by poor infant and young child feeding and care practices.

“Epidemics, such as of the Ebola virus disease pose tremendous challenges to food security and nutrition,” the COD stated.

The conference reaffirmed that the elimination of malnutrition in all its forms is an imperative for health, ethical, political social and economic reasons,, but warned that food should not be used as an instrument for political or economic pressure.

“Excessive volatility of prices of food and agricultural commodities can negatively impact food security and nutrition, and needs to be better monitored and addressed for the challenges it poses,” the COD indicated.

The COD also highlighted the necessity of the empowerment of consumers through improved and evidence-based health and nutrition information and education to make informed choices regarding consumption of food products for healthy dietary practices.

The COD noted that collective action is instrumental to improve nutrition, requiring collaboration between governments, the private sector, civil society and communities.
“Family farmers and smallholders, notably woman farmers, play an important role in reducing malnutrition and should be supported by integrated and multi-sector public policies, as appropriate, that raise their productive capacity and incomes and strengthen their resilience,” the COD advised.

The conference also recognised that responsible investment in agriculture, including smallholders and family farming, is essential for overcoming malnutrition.

Governments should also protect consumers, especially children, from inappropriate marketing of and publicity about food.

The delegates of over 170 countries who attended the conference, committed to eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition worldwide, increase investments for effective interventions, enhance sustainable food systems and raise the profile of nutrition within relevant national strategies.

“We commit to strengthen and facilitate contributions and action by all stakeholders to improve nutrition and promote collaboration within and across countries, including North-South cooperation as well as South-South and triangular cooperation,” the COD said.

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by Hennie Duvenhage

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