No food security without protecting our land and our poor
NO FOOD SECURITY WITHOUT PROTECTING OUR LAND AND OUR POOR
Boosting agriculture, creating viable local food systems and protecting the vulnerable will have measurable impacts on improving Pacific food security.
Port Vila, Vanuatu 22 April 2010- Sustainable local agriculture and protecting the rights of the vulnerable have emerged as strong themes on Day Two of the Pacific Food Summit being held in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
If people don’t have access to safe, healthy, nutritious food, health and development outcomes are dramatically negatively impacted. Increasing sustainable agricultural productivity in the face of steadily more difficult environmental conditions is critical. Meeting current food needs without compromising the rights of future generations involves multisectoral policies and actions that target the most vulnerable.
“We need dramatic change. Long-term food security requires establishing food supply systems that can mitigate risk and cope with stress. There is a need to create more resilient food systems, capable of adapting to shifts at local and regional levels and absorb disturbances resulting from the volatility of the global economic market and environmental changes,” continues Dr Fuavao.Looking to the future, the integration of agricultural, food processing, value addition and non-agricultural business activities is essential in order to enhance food security. Conserving fish stocks and investing in sustainable management of our oceans is critical.
“And the longer we leave taking strong action to create sustainable food supplies and supportive agricultural, the harder and more complex it becomes to fix it. Ultimately, that makes it harder to feed our people. None of us wants that,” states Dr Fuavao.
“Due to physiological needs, pregnant women, infants, children and adolescent girls are more vulnerable to food security and resulting issues such as anaemia. Micronutrient deficiencies, arising from poor quality of food, diets low in vegetables and fruits, lack of iodized salt and parasitic infections are a public health problem in a majority of Pacific countries.
In 14 Pacific countries, anaemia is found in 19%-60% of preschool children, 12%-54% of non-pregnant women and 19%-57% of pregnant women. Vitamin A deficiency is present in 9%-22% of preschool children.
“All these are issues that are completely preventable,” continues Dr Ndombi. “The good news is that if we prevent malnutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of life, we can make significant gains and directly reduce illness and death. For young children – the breast is best – all children need to be fed breastmilk exclusively for the first 6 months, and then other nutritious foods should be gradually introduced.
For pregnant women, children and adolescent girls, micronutrient supplementation either through fortified foods or supplementation is the best option where there are difficulties in consuming enough nutrient-rich food.
“We’d also like to work much more closely with our food industry partners to fortify foods, with micronutrients like folic acid, iodine and Vitamin A. This an area that we can really make some radical gains in. It’s good news for health and it’s good news for industry as they look for different market opportunities,” urges Dr Ndombi.
"Developing regulation for fortification of flour, rice and oil and iodization of salt, while regulating against the importation of high fat meats and foods will go a long way to alleviate the twin problems of micronutrient deficiency and chronic, non communicable disease that exist in the Pacific Region," confirmed Dr Glen Maberly, Director, Global Health Institute (GHI), a part of the Centre for Health Innovation and Partnership Sydney West Area Health Service (SWAHS) NSW, Australia
The impact of food insecurity is most severe for the poorest members of the community and particularly those in urban areas without access to subsistence agriculture or fisheries. People affected by the frequent natural disasters that haunt the Pacific are also vulnerable.
“In our quest for food security for all, we can’t afford to leave anyone out. This is why agreed regional action is so important. We urge governments to move quickly to protect our land and our populations,” agreed Drs Fuavao and Ndombi.
For further information, please visit www.foodsecurepacific.org and contact the following people:
FAO Dirk Schulz CP: +678 565 3293
UNICEF Donna Hoeder CP: +678 5607 185
Global Health Institute Jan Kang CP: +61 405 820 492 (Aust)
Government of Vanuatu Shirley Laban CP: +678 7770 594
PIFS Johnson Honimae CP: +678 5664 721
SPC Ruci Mafi CP: +679 9784-330 (Fiji)
The Pacific Food Summit 21-23 April 2010