Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:00
Second international conference kicks off on 19 November; Sri Lankan delegation to participate
The Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) which is jointly organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), is due to take place at FAO Headquarters in Rome from 19-21 November.
For Sri Lanka, ICN2 comes at a time of renewed focus in the country on nutrition, in particular surrounding the implementation of the Multi-sector Action Plan for Nutrition launched by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the end of 2013.
Sri Lanka will be represented in Rome by a high level delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and the National Nutrition Secretariat.
“Investing in nutrition is not only a moral imperative, but an economic one, as it improves productivity and economic growth, reduces health care costs and promotes education, intellectual capacity and social development,” said Beth Crawford, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
The first International Conference on Nutrition, organised by FAO and WHO, was held in 1992, and produced a World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition. ICN2 will review the progress made in the intervening years, focusing specifically on country-level achievements and proven interventions in scaling up nutrition.
It will also identify new challenges and opportunities for improving nutrition policies and coordination across multiple sectors. ICN2 will be the first global intergovernmental conference to address the world’s nutrition problems in the 2lst century.
FAO and WHO, as the leading agencies dealing with nutrition issues and its interrelationships with agriculture and health, are calling international attention to a renewed effort to address the issue in a holistic way.
“From any side you look at it, the price tag of malnutrition is too high. That is why we need ICN2 right now,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.
ICN2 will bring together senior national policymakers from agriculture, health and other relevant ministries and agencies, with leaders of United Nations agencies and other intergovernmental organisations and civil society, including non-governmental organisations, researchers, the private sector and consumers.
The immediate challenge is to reach a consensus on ways to ensure a high degree of policy coherence between food supply and public health to guarantee food and nutrition security for all. Together, participants will identify policy priorities for improving nutritional outcomes.
Graziano further said that while much progress has been made since the first ICN in 1992, there is still considerable room for improvement.
Malnutrition does not stop at hunger – it is a major impediment to development and the full realisation of human potential. For children especially, the long-term effects of malnutrition include both physical and cognitive stunting, preventing them from reaching their full potential in school.
This in turn affects future job and income opportunities, thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty and slowing the economic development of the community. The responsibility for proper nutrition does not lie solely on the individual - malnutrition has serious effects on the whole population, both on national health systems and on the entire cultural, social and economic fabric of nations.