UN declares Decade of Action on Nutrition

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Decade of Action on Nutrition resolution was co-sponsored by 30 UN members. © iStock.com / paulaphoto
The Decade of Action on Nutrition resolution was co-sponsored by 30 UN members. © iStock.com / paulaphoto

Related tags: Nutrition, Malnutrition, United nations

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has declared a ‘Decade of Action on Nutrition’, placing nutrition firmly at the heart of its sustainable development agenda.

Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) director general José Graziano da Silva said the resolution​ recognised improving food security and nutrition was essential to achieving the entire 2030 Agenda​– a list of 17 goals adopted last September aimed at ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and tackling climate change by 2030.

"Children can't fully reap the benefits of schooling if they don't get the nutrients they need; and emerging economies won't reach their full potential if their workers are chronically tired because their diets are unbalanced," ​he said in a statement.

The resolution was co-sponsored by 30 UN members. It is hoped it will provide a platform for action for various stakeholders.

The signatories called for support from governments, international and regional organisations, civil society, the private sector and academia.

From paper to reality 

Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazil's permanent representative to the UN, said in a release: "We encourage UN agencies, member states, civil society and private sector to join in this collective effort. We look forward to engage in this process, sharing information on our national policies and learning from other experiences."

UN general assembly iStock.com bwzenith
© iStock.com / bwzenith

International NGO Action Against Hunger told us the commitment was unprecedented.

“For the first time in history, nutrition advocates have helped bring about a global commitment, agreed by every country in the world in 2015, to eliminate malnutrition by 2030,”​ its international advocacy director Glen Tarman said. 

“But achieving this goal – and ensuring every child has the best start to life – will require significant financial and policy commitments from countries all over the world. Now we have a decade to align and make sure the world gets on track fast.” 

He said the Nutrition for Growth summit in Rio on the eve of the summer Olympics in August would be the next big opportunity to inject much-needed funds into the fight against malnutrition.

“Nutrition continues to rise as a global issue, but we must all keep pushing policy makers at national level and internationally to put the right mix of policies and resources in place."

Nutrition giant DSM said it backed the UN's move to put nutrition at the heart of development goals and expected that "nutrition will get even more attention to solve and eradicate malnutrition globally in a growing and ageing population"​ as a result.

Senior vice-president of nutrition science and advocacy for the Dutch firm, Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, told us healthy ageing, osteoporosis and the first 1000 days of life were areas of particular opportunity.

"Lack of adequate nutrients in the first 1000 days (from conception to 24 months of age) will, for example, lead to irreversible gaps in development."

Micro nutrients, macro problems  

The resolution document “expressed concern”​ that 800m people worldwide remain chronically undernourished while 159m children aged under five are stunted.

It said over 2bn people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies and a rapidly increasing number of people are affected by obesity across regions. There are now 1.9bn overweight adults in the world, of which more than 600m are obese.

Last year UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) director of nutrition Anna Lartey told us the emergence of obesity in regions like Africa​ had meant the agency was forced to rethink its strategy on nutrition – simultaneously tackling under and over nutrition.

“Now even in developing countries, where for a long time we’ve been working on addressing under nutrition, while many conditions are improving, we are seeing problems of overweight and obesity on the rise,” ​she said at the time.

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1 comment

Lack of adequate nutrients before conception can lead to birth defects

Posted by Renée Jopp,

A child's health and well-being can already be determined before the first 1000 days, before conception. The nutritional status of women of reproductive age is essential to their children. If women are micronutrient deficient when they get pregnant, this increases the risk of birth defects, such as neural tube defects. Inadequate folic acid levels before conception increase the risk of a foetus developing Spina Bifida during the first 28 days of pregnancy. In addition to a healthy diet, WHO recommends that women who can get pregnant should also take 400mcg folic acid daily, at least 2 months before getting pregnant, to reduce the risk of neural tube defects. As many pregnancies are unplanned, the need for a folate rich diet, and if possible folic acid fortified foods, is even more important.

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