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Governments at UN food summit pledge to combat malnutrition

Nutrition Crop diversity in Peru (Photo: Bioversity International)

The international community must intensify its efforts towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition, top UN officials declared on Wednesday at the opening of the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome, which brings together ministers and senior officials responsible for food, agriculture or health with leaders of UN agencies and representatives of civil society. At the opening, some 170 Member States adopted the “Rome Declaration on Nutrition” as well as a “Framework for Action”, which set out recommendations for policies and programmes to address nutrition across different sectors. According to the FAO press release, the role of food systems - the way food is produced, processed, distributed, marketed and prepared for human consumption - is crucial in the fight against malnutrition. Therefore, many of the recommendations adopted focus on ensuring that food systems become more sustainable and promote diverse and healthy diets. To this end, governments are encouraged in Recommendation 9 to “strengthen local food production and processing, especially by smallholder and family farmers, giving special attention to the empowerment of women”. The framework document also recommends “programmes to promote physical activity, dietary diversification, consumption of micronutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, including traditional local foods.” At the opening of the conference, WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan stressed that “the world’s food system - with its reliance on industrialised production and globalised markets - produces ample supplies, but creates some problems for public health”: While 805 million people worldwide still go hungry and over two billion are affected by micronutrient deficiencies, leaving them vulnerable to death or disease, obesity is on the rise, pushing life-expectancy figures backwards and increasing the costs of health care. The Rome Declaration commits governments to preventing malnutrition in all its forms, including hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity, and names nine other areas of action. However, concrete measures and commitments are not mentioned.

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