Fighting malnutrition in the eastern Mediterranean region

malnutrition 22jThe WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean is holding an inter-country consultative meeting for nutrition focal points from 22-24 January 2019, in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme

Participants, including representatives from Member States and stakeholders, will address the issue of malnutrition in the region.

Malnutrition, in its various forms, is a serious public health problem in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. More than 20mn children under the age of five are stunted by poor nutrition. Half of the women’s population, more than two in five men and 15 per cent of children in the Region are overweight or obese.

Malnutrition in all forms takes a heavy toll on the health, well-being and sustainable development of populations. Unhealthy diets, along with lack of physical activity, are key contributors to non-communicable diseases, which are now responsible for two-thirds of deaths globally and in the Region.

A new comprehensive nutrition strategy is being proposed for 2020‒2025 in order to establish a framework for efforts to reach agreed-upon targets for nutrition, diet-related non-communicable diseases and sustainable development, as well as to guide implementation of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition in the Region. Participants of the meeting will be providing feedback on the draft strategy and identifying areas requiring WHO technical support.

“There is a growing body of evidence on the cost-effectiveness and feasibility of policy interventions to improve nutrition, and there is an urgent need to translate this knowledge into action and to disseminate lessons from implementation on the ground. Meanwhile, more than ever, there is a need for comprehensive, multi-sectoral action to tackle malnutrition in all its forms across the Region,” said Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, regional director for the eastern Mediterranean at WHO.

Given this challenging context, WHO and partners have responded to Member States’ demand for technical support to develop national strategies and implement policies to improve nutrition.

“We propose that the strategy is developed through a review of the current nutrition situation in order to identify the main policy priorities and strategic interventions required to address the double burden of malnutrition in the Region and recommend key actions for different stakeholders, including Member States, civil society, WHO and other United Nations partners. Those policy priorities and strategic interventions should align with the framework of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition,” Dr Al-Mandhari explained.

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