Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Another UN Conference-Will any thing substantial come out it?

It is an irrefutable fact that we have side by side hunger as well as obesity, co-existing, with each passing day the latter cases growing at an alarming rate. This is attributed to inequitable distribution of wealth which is mostly concentrated in rich industrialized countries like the US, Europe, japan and a few others. While ways and means to tackle poverty and hunger are routinely discussed the progress towards a world free of people with starvation and near starvation is still a mirage. Global aid to ameliorate this ugly situation does bring down hunger significantly and food aid can never be the answer to banish the scourge of hunger on a permanent footing. The key to overcome this curse is enabling people in affected countries to earn more through economic development so that they can access to the food with ease. Agricultural productivity to day is more or less satisfactory growing sufficient food to meet the needs of the entire planet and new technologies are continuously emerging to help the farmers to attain higher and higher land productivity. If it is a question of generating income among not well to do population what a UN conference can achieve through a conference is a debatable point. Nonetheless if the forthcoming UN conference in Rome can continue to sensitize the governments in various countries regarding the food problem and health issues arising out of food it can keep them in focus, lest they are forgotten. Here is a take on this development which is billed as path breaking for the future of this plant  .

"An upcoming international conference on nutrition will focus on the twin evils of malnutrition and obesity.  Representatives from at least 140 governments, including 90 ministers and members of private institutions and civil societies, will gather in Rome next week to devise strategies for improving the nutritional status of hundreds of millions of people around the world. The conference, which is jointly organized by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization will address multiple issues related to nutrition.  These include the problems of under-nutrition, obesity, and chronic diseases related to poor diet. Global statistics are not encouraging.  WHO reports more than 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger.  More than 160 million children are affected by chronic malnutrition or stunting.  At the same time, it says 42 million children under age five are overweight.  These figures tell an even more dramatic story when statistics on adult under and over-nutrition are factored in. FAO and WHO agree the global food system is broken and must be fixed to provide healthy nutritional diets for those who are deprived.  They say it is possible to enact policies that can improve the quality of the food supply, provide healthy foods and intervene directly in life-saving therapy when needed. Xiangjun Yao, the director of the FAO Liaison Office in Geneva, says good nutrition is composed of many strands.  Therefore, she says there must be a holistic approach to cover the whole food chain. "To us, the food system, it should be something from the farm to the table, from what we call farm to fork and, that covers production, processing, storage, distribution, preparation and also consumption,"  Yao said. The U.N. agencies will be proposing a large, comprehensive list of strategies to the conference for approval.  The plan of action will call for greater focus on the nutrition of children from birth to age two to avoid malnutrition and stunting.  It also calls for greater attention to the needs of pregnant and lactating women as well as to the most neglected and socially marginalized groups in society. The centerpiece of the conference, which will run from November 19 to 21, will be a political declaration asking governments to commit themselves to eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition worldwide by 2025.  Director of the WHO's Department of Nutrition, Franceso Branca, tells VOA that the so-called SDG II or Sustainable Development Goal will go beyond the Millennium Development Goals, which have succeeded in halving hunger in at least 63 countries by 2015". 

While number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition is coming down as per the statistics provided by FAO, it is the obesity problem that haunts many developed and developing countries which does not show any abatement in spite of a slew of measures to arrest its growth and reduce such population significantly. Though over eating is more like a disease which may need a medical approach, what is intriguing is why people indulge in gluttony knowing pretty well that it is dangerous to their health. Modern food industry is often blamed for tempting people with highly palatable but nutritionally deficient food products in most convenient formats.but personal choices are important and younger generation needs to be "intensely" educated to shun high calorie, high fat, high salt foods illustrating the dangerous consequences of opting for such foods. Industry cannot be expected to do much as it is a profit center constantly trying to ensure adequate returns to its investments and the industry will always cater to the demand from the market regarding what foods consumers want. The forthcoming conference must focus on an international commitment to upgrade the curriculum and educational practices to obviate the situation. Along with policy supports which can subtly change the product mix coming out of the industry, a new era must emerge where "conscious" eating may become a norm.      


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