ROME/ HAVANA – The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is marking World Food Day on 16 October by highlighting the power of nutrition to transform individuals, societies and economies, and the need to make it central to all development efforts.
“Undernourished girls and boys face barriers in health, in school performance and later, in the workplace, which limit their human potential and their capacity to contribute to the societies in which they live,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.
“Prioritising nutrition today is an investment in our collective global future. The investment must involve food, agriculture, health and education systems,” she said.
Today some 842 million people - more than one in eight people in the world – suffer from chronic hunger. Yet even more – around two billion people - lack the vitamins and minerals needed to live healthy lives.
If the global community invested US$1.2 billion per year for five years on reducing micronutrient deficiencies, the benefits in better health, fewer child deaths and increased future earnings would generate gains worth US$15.3 billion.
In Cuba, over the last decade the main focus of WFP has been to improve the food security of the vulnerable population groups in the eastern region. WFP has done this though the distribution of fortified foods in the area.
In order to control and prevent anemia, caused by iron deficiency, WFP has been conducting a distribution project. WFP delivers corn flour and soy fortified with vitamins and minerals to more than 142,000 children. The majority of these children are in the age range of 6 months to 5 years old
WFP also supports the capacity building of the local production of fortified foods. This is done through promotional campaigns and media training to encourage change in eating habits of the population.
WFP is focused in reducing food insecurity which is a major issue to the population affected by natural disaster. Thus far there have been 17 emergency operations coordinated in Cuba. The Most recent operation was to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy, which affected more than 2.5 million people in various provinces.
The theme of this year’s World Food Day is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition.”
Providing food assistance to 97 million people worldwide, here are some of the ways WFP focuses on nutrition:
• Rapidly increasing the number of children and new mothers who receive new nutritionally enhanced food products.
• Focusing on the crucial 1,000 day window - from the womb to two years of age – where getting sufficient nutrients and calories is crucial for full growth.
• Stepping up assistance through cash and vouchers when food is available in markets, so consumers can buy more fresh and varied local foods.
• Emphasising dietary diversity and fresh foods in its school feeding programmes, by working with local communities and farmers.
• Working with private partners and research institutes to assess the nutritional impact of providing fortified rice in school meals
• Supporting the creation of a solid evidence base to guide countries in their nutrition policies and strategies, such as the recent Cost of Hunger in Africa study, led by the African Union
WFP celebrates World Food Day with its sister UN food agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). In Ecuador, this date is celebrated along with the National Assembly, various ministries and representatives of civil society. Activities will be implemented in Quito which include nutrition trainings in schools using alternative ways of teaching, including theatre and humour, under WFP guidance.