The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said that the Asia-Pacific region which is “home to most of the world’s undernourished people” needs to undertake urgent action to tackle malnutrition and promote consumption of healthier foods.
According to the UN agency’s report 2017 Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, food security has improved for millions of people in Asia and the Pacific but hunger and malnutrition still appear to be rising in some areas, leaving roughly half-a-billion people undernourished.
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Children below the age of five are particularly vulnerable, with one in four children suffering from stunting – impaired growth and development, often as a result of poor nutrition. On the other hand, the report also found that obesity is rising, with ‘significant increases’ in the prevalence of overweight children over the past 15 years, especially in South Asia (from three per cent to seven per cent) and Oceania (five per cent to nearly 10 per cent).
The UN report was released on November 10, at a regional symposium on sustainable food systems in Bangkok, Thailand. The event focused on policies that can improve food systems, and promote better nutrition and healthier diets. The symposium is a component of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025, which aims to increase investments and actions to improve people’s diets and nutrition.
The symposium was organized by FAO in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, the FAO special goodwill ambassador for zero hunger in the region, opened the event and encouraged participants to work together to find solutions.
“The world has committed to zero hunger and improving nutrition as a key outcome of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must look at improving our current systems of production and patterns of consumption, and set a course of action,” she said.
Speaking on the occasion, Kundhavi Kadiresan, the head of the FAO in the Asia-Pacific region, said, “Good nutrition depends on raising awareness about healthy foods and choices, as well as efficient, affordable and sustainable systems to deliver that food.”
“If we are to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of [ending hunger] in the region, we must invest to improve our food systems and pool our knowledge and resources to meet our current food and nutrition challenges head on,” she added.