No fewer than two billion people — representing one in three people on the planet — suffer some form of malnutrition, José da Silva, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has said.
Silva said this at a UN meeting on Thursday in Rome on ways to improve diets and ensure sustainable food systems, according to a press statement.
He said the suffering from malnutrition was impacting public health and economic development at an estimated cost of $3.5 trillion per year.
“No country is immune from malnutrition, either under-nutrition or overweight and obesity, whose human, social, environmental and economic costs are overwhelming,” Silva said.
“Nutrition must be considered a public issue, a state responsibility; consumers must be empowered to choose healthy food and diets through nutrition-sensitive social protection, nutrition education, and effective and accurate labeling and advertising.”
The statement said the two-day event, jointly organised by FAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO), examined country-level challenges and successes to shed light on effective approaches to reshaping food production.
The event also examined processing, marketing and retail systems to better tackle the problem of malnutrition, which blighted the lives of billions of individuals and can trap generations in a vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition.
Silva pledged FAO’s support to help countries adopt a food systems approach to address all states of the food chain, from production and processing to marketing and consumption.
He said governments should encourage diversification of agriculture, improve post-harvest management, facilitate market access for poor family farmers and guarantee food safety.
The FAO director-general also announced that King Letsie III of Lesotho is FAO’s newest Special Ambassador for Nutrition.
The statement quoted the WHO’s Director-General, Margaret Chan, represented by Francesco Branca, director of nutrition for health and development at WHO, as saying that nutrition is a global challenge.
“Nutrition is a challenge for all countries. Whether it is stunting, wasting, anaemia or obesity, no country is exempted,” Chan said.
“With the sustainable development goals we are committed to end all forms of malnutrition by the year 2030, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
No fewer than two billion people on the planet suffer from health-affecting micronutrient deficiencies, and an estimated 150 million children under five years of age are stunted due to poor diets.
Similarly, at least 1.9 billion people are now overweight, while 600 million of them are classified as obese.
In April, the UN declared the start of an “International Decade on Nutrition” to follow through on commitments made at the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in 2014.
The conference was also to meet the nutrition-related targets of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).