“Unfortunately, I start with bad news,” said Stineke Oenema, coordinator of the UN system standing committee on nutrition (UNSCN), as she outlined that 1 in 3 people were malnourished and suffering from one or several forms of malnutrition.
“Equally bad was the fact that malnutrition is not evenly distributed,” she added at the UN’s Economic and Social Council meeting this week, referring to conflict and famine-vulnerable regions that have seen malnutrition rates rocket in recent times.
“The good news is in the reporting and the fact that the world has started to take action through the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, which was proclaimed in 2016,” she added.
Mario Arvelo, chair of the Committee on World Food Security, shared Oenema’s concerns. He informed the Council that the Committee was “deeply concerned” that the 2017 report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition stated the international community was not on track to meet targets set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The rise of malnutrition
According to Arvelo, global hunger has escalated by 5% in 2016, highlighting that the number of food insecure people was at 815 million; some 38 million more than in 2015.
Referring to her organisation’s latest report Oenema detailed their work in translating nutrition‑related policies and targets into country-level actions.
She said that in 2018 it would strengthen links with governing bodies to embed nutrition at the heart of the work of United Nations agencies, and not just with nutrition focal points or departments.
That meant not only those agencies with a big nutrition mandate, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
These agencies included the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).
“UNSCN seeks to further promote policy coherence and consistent delivery across the UN system,” the report concluded.
“To do so, it will further expand the UNSCN membership base to enable a more comprehensive approach to nutrition.
“UNSCN will also deepen its engagement with the governing bodies of its members. It will continue to highlight the interlinkages across the 2030 Agenda, and contribute to the work of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF).
“It will work with the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) to ensure strong outcomes, which include the nutrition aspects, at the third High-level Meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs being organised by the UNGA in 2018.”
‘A useful framework’
European delegates weighed in on the global problem during the meeting in New York.
Germany’s representative said the work of the Committee on World Food Security in Rome “should be better known in New York”.
Highlighting the work of the Standing Committee, he said the Decade of Action was “a useful framework to which everyone should contribute”.
Also present in the discussions were the World Health Organization (WHO), which highlighted the contributions made by the Committee on World Food Security and the Standing Committee to the success of the Decade of Action.
Speaking on behalf of the WFP and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the WHO agreed with several delegations that food and nutrition must remain high on the agenda in New York.