Business News of 2014-06-17

High social and economic cost of malnutrition – FAO

The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Jose’ Graziano da Silva, has noted that although important advances in the fight against hunger and malnutrition have been made since the first conference on nutrition in 1992, progress has been uneven and insufficient.

Thus, governments have been urged to demonstrate stronger commitments at the upcoming Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) to ensure healthier diets for all, the heads of FAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week.

A high-level, global intergovernmental meeting, ICN2, is scheduled to take place in Rome in November 19-21 this year. It is co-organised by FAO and WHO with other United Nations and international organisations with the theme “Better nutrition, better lives”.

The WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said: “One aim of the conference (ICN2) is to provide the scientific basis for sound nutrition policies that promote food security and food safety while promoting health”.

Chan said among the important questions participants at ICN2 need to address is: “Why is it that severe under-nutrition and obesity can exist side by side in the same country and in the same community?” Margaret Chan also noted the need to consider the health and environmental implications of another recent trend: “the rapid rise in the demand for meat and other animal products that coincides with rising income levels”.

Over 840 million people are chronically undernourished, with the proportion of undernourished only falling 17 percent since the early 1990s. Malnutrition is responsible for about half of all child-deaths under five years of age, causing over three million deaths every year.

Meanwhile, various forms of malnutrition often overlap and coexist within the same country -- and even within the same household. Around 160 million children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished, while over two billion people suffer one or more micronutrient deficiencies. At the same time, another half billion are obese.

Graziano da Silva stressed the high social and economic costs of malnutrition that are a burden on society. “Estimates point to a loss of up to 5 percent of global income per year in terms of lost productivity and health expenses. This adds up to roughly 3.5 trillion US dollars, or 500 US dollars per person -- a huge amount of money and high costs to pay,” he said.

In another development, the Country Representative of the FAO in Ghana, Dr. Lamourdia Thiombiano, has called for a stronger collaboration between the FAO, public education institutions, ministries, and government agencies in order to develop the next generation of researchers, scientists, and extension officers working in support of agriculture sector-reform.

A soil scientist by training, Dr. Lambourdia Thiombiano spoke to journalists at a ceremony to donate 13 thousand FAO publications on a wide range of agriculture subjects to selected public and private educational institutions, as well as some ministries departments and agencies.

He said building knowledge institutions with the technical capacity to support education, research and agricultural development is an important priority for the Ghanaian government in its efforts to accelerate modernisation of the country’s agriculture sector.

“Knowledge dissemination is key to technology adoption and improvement of traditional methods and approaches for agriculture production, processing and value addition,” he added.

Dr. Thiombiano identified capacity-building through widening channels to knowledge and information as essential for strengthening research and development in Ghana’s agriculture sector.

He said the FAO looks forward to building further relationships on enhancing access to knowledge and expanding information networks for agriculture development in Ghana and the region beyond.

FAO Ghana has opened access to its library in support of Ghanaian secondary and university students with an interest in rural development and agricultural sciences, and has contributed to enhanced knowledge and understanding of the country’s agriculture sector.

In response, the Deputy Minister for Education Mr. Alex Kyeremeh commended the FAO for the kind gesture and appealed to mother corporate organisations to continuously select some critical publications for reprinting to update knowledge and skills in the system.

Recipients included the Ministry Food and Agriculture, College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences, University of Ghana, University College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies Bunsu, University of Development Studies, St. John’s Grammar School, Odorgonnor Senior High School, and St. Aquinas Senior High School.

The rest are Wesley Grammar High School, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Cape Coast, Institute of Tropical Agriculture (Kita), Damongo Agricultural College, Ejura Agricultural College, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Kumasi, the Ghana Library Authority, the Forestry Commission, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) -- (Food Research Institute, Animal Research Institute, Forestry Research Institute) all under CSIR.