UN global meet on malnutrition kicks off in Rome

November 19, 2014 6:57 am
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Representatives from 190 countries were expected to attend the Second International Conference on Nutrition/AFP
Representatives from 190 countries were expected to attend the Second International Conference on Nutrition/AFP
ROME, Italy, Nov 19 – Political leaders from around the world gathered in Rome Wednesday for a three-day UN conference on malnutrition aimed at tackling a global scourge which afflicts poor and rich alike.

Representatives from 190 countries were expected to attend the Second International Conference on Nutrition (CIN2), organised by the UN’s food agency (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) and boasting appearances from leaders including Pope Francis.

“We are registering unacceptably high and persistent levels of malnutrition in the world,” Leslie Amoroso, a FAO nutrition expert, told journalists ahead of the conference, which will draw together over 100 health and agriculture ministers.

“The human costs of malnutrition are very high: 805 million people are undernourished and 161 million children have delayed growth,” she said, adding that it was “a global problem which demands coordinated action from numerous sectors.”

A lot of progress has been made already, with the number of undernourished people in the world dropping by over half in the past two decades, from one billion people in 1992 when the first conference (CIN1) was held, to 805 million in 2014.

But malnutrition is not just about hunger: two billion people suffer from deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamin A, iron and zinc – a condition known as “hidden hunger” by experts – while 42 million children and 500 million adults are overweight or obese.

As poor nutrition “acts like a brake on development,” investing in healthy food is proven to “improve productivity and economic growth, reduce health insurance costs and foster education and intellectual capacity,” Amoroso said.

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