Member countries of ASEAN have begun a two day consultation in collaboration with FAO to finalize a road map of priority actions for the implementation of a nutrition component for food security. The aim of the consultation is to firmly integrate nutrition into the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework and the Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security (SPA-FS). FAO has been assisting ASEAN with development and implementation of its AIFS and SPA-FS 2015 – 2020.
“Nutrition is an important element in ensuring food security,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative. “FAO is very pleased that ASEAN is placing nutrition as a priority and is leading the process of mainstreaming nutrition as an integral part of ASEAN AIFS and SPA-FS. This provides the basis for ASEAN to take a long-term, integrated and sustainable food system approach that will guide future actions on food security and nutrition,” Konuma said during opening remarks.
Konuma pointed out that all ten ASEAN countries had achieved the Millennium Development Goal to reduce the proportion of hunger by half by 2015 with an average rate of 9.6 percent, which is far lower than the regional average of 12 percent, and is a prime mover of Asia’s success. “We need to congratulate all ASEAN countries for this remarkable achievement,” Konuma said.
Recent data indicates that almost all countries in South East Asia have a high incidence of anaemia among pregnant women and children. Among pregnant women, the incidence ranges from 24 percent to 52 percent in some countries. Prevalence of anaemia among children below the age of five ranges from 18 percent to 55 percent in some countries.
Some of the key micronutrients typically deficient in the region are iron, vitamin A and iodine.
“We need to look at nutrition indicators in a much more comprehensive way, not only calorie based but also focusing on micronutrient deficiencies and other elements,” Konuma said.
Participants at the consultation have heard that for people to make nutritious food choices for good health, it is important to invest in diversified food production, equitable distribution, affordable access, safe processing and nutrition awareness.
For agriculture development to be most effective in providing solutions to hunger and malnutrition, there is a need for wider implementation of effective, sustainable and long-term nutrition-sensitive development and agriculture and food-based approaches that improve diets and raise levels of nutrition. That would mean better integration of small holders and family farms into local and regional food value chains, enhancing incomes, employment and revitalizing rural economies.
The two-day ASEAN meeting is expected to finalize the road map for the implementation of priority actions on food security and nutrition.