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Asia Pacific: Improve diets urgently for undernourished people, report

The Asia-Pacific region, home to most of the world’s undernourished people, needs urgent action to improve diets and reset its food systems which are critical to the delivery of healthy, nutritious foods, said the FAO.

According to the findings of FAO’s 2017 Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition report, there is a pressing need to tackle malnutrition alongside further promotion of the consumption of healthier foods while curbing the growth in consumption of unhealthy foods.

In addition to further investment in agriculture, the report also underlines an urgent need to step up investment in other areas to tackle malnutrition, such as improvements to sanitation, access to safe drinking water, improving diets during the first 1,000 days of life and policies and promotions to increase consumption of diverse nutrient-rich foods.

While food security has improved for millions of people in the Asia-Pacific region, hunger and malnutrition appear to be on the rise in some areas, the report warns.

The latest figures indicate roughly half-a-billion people are undernourished in Asia and the Pacific.

The situation is particularly dire for children below the age of five.

Overall, one-in-four suffers from stunting.

However, the report also finds that, during the last 15 years, obesity is on the rise, with “significant increases” in the prevalence of overweight children, particularly in South Asia (from 3% to 7%) and Oceania (from 5% to nearly 10%).

Zero Hunger by 2030 is still possible

Although the prevalence of hunger has increased in some parts of the region, the 2030 goal is still within reach.

However, more investment will be needed to improve food systems across the region, a call also repeated at the opening of the regional symposium.

“Good nutrition depends on raising awareness about healthy foods and choices, as well as efficient, affordable and sustainable systems to deliver that food,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific.

“If we are to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger in this region, we must invest to improve our food systems and pool our knowledge and resources to meet our current food and nutrition challenges head on.”