Steps against malnutrition urged
Dubai, May 27, 2010
The 'double-burden' of malnutrition – obesity and under-nutrition – in the Mena region was under the spotlight at a recent global conference on improving nutrition in Dubai.
“Simple, affordable solutions are available,” said Marc Van Ameringen, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) which hosted the forum.
“We are appealing to the region's leaders and businesses to get on board and help to enhance the health of the malnourished communities in the region while educating their wealthier neighbours in good eating habits."
"If malnutrition is not tackled now, Afghanistan's economic, social and intellectual capacity will be compromised,” said a statement from the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation.
“The Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation is proud to be working with GAIN over the next three years to reduce malnutrition in Afghanistan by 30 per cent, targeting infants and young children.”
Obesity in the Gulf states is at an all time high, particularly shocking among adolescents, with figures as high as 52.5 per cent in this age group in Bahrain, 35.2 per cent in the UAE and 45.3 per cent in Kuwait, a statement said.
Yet on the other hand, under-nutrition in other Mena countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Yemen and Afghanistan is having dire consequences, it pointed out.
Ten per cent of children under five do not weigh enough for their age, and 32 per cent in the same group are short for their age. Anaemia is widespread, with rates among pre-schoolers as high as 85 per cent in Sudan and 68 per cent in Yemen.
Among pregnant women, more than 55 per cent are anaemic in Afghanistan and Yemen, and up to 40 per cent in Egypt and Algeria.
"Three and a half million children die of malnutrition worldwide, two billion people suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies and 1.02 billion go to bed hungry every night,” said Jay Naidoo, chairman of GAIN and of the Southern African Development Bank.
“This is unacceptable. It is the future of our children that is at stake.”
GAIN creates partnerships to deliver sustainable food fortification programs throughout the world, with a unique market-based approach linking governments, businesses, NGOs and donors.
In Egypt, millions eat subsidised baladi bread fortified with folic acid and iron. In a new scheme taking shape there, vegetable oil will be fortified with vitamin A, and oil producers provided with equipment and technical help.
In Morocco, a third of the national wheat flour market has been supplemented with iron, folic acid and other B vitamins and more than 71 per cent of the national vegetable oil market has been fortified with vitamins A and D. – TradeArabia News Service