Twenty years ago, representatives from different member states met in Rome to declare their united commitment to address global food insecurity and undernutrition. At that time, around 780 million did not have access to adequate food, and over 2000 million suffered from one or more micronutrient deficiencies, resulting from poor quality diets.
Since then, a lot has changed. We have made steady progress in reducing hunger and poverty. Prevalence of undernutrition has fallen from 18.7% to 11.3% globally. Yet, at present 805 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished, and over 2 billion suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiencies which negatively impacts their health and ability to perform as effective and productive individuals. Furthermore, there has also been a rapid rise in obesity and its health manifestations such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases etc. Children and women continue to be worse off- poor nutrition underlies around 3.1 million child deaths, and leaves 162 million children stunted and 51 million wasted. Nearly 1 in 2 women are anaemic, which has adverse generational repercussions.
Twenty years hence, the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), co-hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), is once again bringing together ministers and senior national policymakers from different sectors such as agriculture, health and nutrition, trade etc. to collaborate and streamline an effective multisectoral policy framework to address present day nutrition challenges. A welcome move is the importance given this time to the role of civil society, private sector, research, and other intergovernmental agencies in helping draft this framework.
Nutrition underlies six of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are to come to an end in 2015. Clearly, many countries are not on track to meet one or more MGDs. The ICN2 seeks to feed into the post-2015 development agenda, and identify integrated approaches to address malnutrition.
The ICN2 kicks off with the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) Global Gathering and the Civil Society forum today (opening plenary pictured above), prior to the conference from 19-21st November 2014. Important outcomes of this timely conference will be the ‘Rome Political Declaration on Nutrition’, a commitment by all the member states to ensure continued focus on nutrition as a development challenge, and the development of a ‘Framework for Action’, with recommendations to guide all policy makers and stakeholders on the concerted steps they should take to address malnutrition in all its forms.