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Let’s embrace a comprehensive approach to tackle food security and nutrition – FAO

General News of Thursday, 17 October 2019



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Mr Abebe Haile-Gabriel, Assistant Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has said the African region is grappling with multiple challenges that militates against food security and nutrition.

He said there was the need to embrace a comprehensive approach to the entire food chain to tackle the challenges.

Mr Haile-Gabriel, the Regional Representative for Africa, said during a stakeholder’s engagement organized as part of this year’s World Food Day (WFD) celebrations in Accra.

This year‘s WFD is on the theme “Our actions are our future. Healthy diets for a #Zerohunger world.”

He said the elimination of all forms of hunger and malnutrition was at the heart of the FAO’s mandate and as the custodian of SDG 2 or Zeno Hunger and would support the efforts of Member States and partners to improve food security, nutrition and promote healthy diets.

Mr Haile-Gabriel said the theme echoes the collective call for action from all stakeholders, which is to make healthy diets available and affordable to all.

He said the noble task of eliminating hunger and malnutrition as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, as well as in the African Union 2025 Malabo Commitments, was actually a race against time towards delivering on the targets.

Latest statistics show that in Africa over a quarter of a million people go to bed hungry, while many wake up baffled if there would ever be any hope for this precarious situation to change for the better.

Mr Haile-Gabriel said access to healthy and nutritious foods was a big issue as foodborne hazards cause significant number of deaths and many more illnesses across the African continent with children under five years of age and other vulnerable sections of the population baring most of the burden.

“We need to recognize that the heart of the development agenda ticks from the elimination of hunger and all forms of malnutrition. There are no chances of achieving the common vision of a safe, fair, peaceful and prosperous world when perennial hunger and not having access to nutritious and healthy foods mire millions of people in a punishing cycle.”

He said the 2019 report on the state of food security published by FAO confirms that hunger had been on the rise in almost all sub regions of Africa, where the prevalence of under nourishment has reached levels of 22.8 percent in sub Saharan Africa, adding that the number of undernourished people has been increasing steadily in Africa over the last few years where it reached 256.1 million people in 2018; with a staggering 93 percent (237 million) of these living in sub-Saharan Africa.

He said families and subsistence farmers in rural areas were the most affected, saying that the worsening food security situation was due to climate shocks, conflict and economic slowdowns and downturns, many at times overlapping.

“Malnutrition encompasses under-nutrition, over-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies which were referred to as the “triple burden of malnutrition”, and they can co-exist at household level and even in a person’s lifetime.”

“There is no better time than now to act. Let our actions today dictate our future. There should really be a sense of urgency for concerted actions by all.”

Dr Frederick Vuvor, Head of Nutrition Department, University of Ghana, said the country was generally not short of food but short of nutrients because we have everything to make healthy food but are mostly not aware of it.

“We are experiencing food transition and now we are hungry in the mist of plenty. We have food but we are hungry, because if food we eat are deficient of the proper nutrients then the results would be malnutrition or overweight.”

He said food was wholesome if its content comprised of all the entailed nutrients in the right proportion and eaten at the right time, but some nutrients in food could be destroyed through preparation, processing, and sunlight.

Dr Vuvor said right from the farm, transport, storage and processing as well as eating it had to be wholesome to ensure that the nutrients that the body needed still remained in the natural state.

“We are doing our best to sensitize the public as to what to do. We have everything in Ghana to live a normal life provided we understand the food we have, how we process, store it, and eat it as per frequency and amount.”

He urged the media to be circumspect in what they put out there with regard to foods in order not to feed the public with false information about certain foods.

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