COLOMBO – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) today kicked off World Food Day 2018 under the patronage of His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena, President of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, in line with the global theme: ‘Our Actions are Our Future. A #Zero Hunger world by 2030 is possible’. This year’s focus of World Food Day was the importance of good nutrition for a healthy nation.
Speaking at the event as Chief Guest, His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena, stated that the World Food Day is the most appropriate occasion to remind ourselves that economic growth is only sustainable if Sri Lanka has food security and improved nutrition. He added that nutritious food intake not only carries significant benefits for human health, but also serves as the basis to achieve sustained economic growth.
President Sirisena praised the programs under taken by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to gradually eradicate malnutrition in the developing world. He pointed out that in third world countries that there is wastage of food, crops due to attacks by wild animals and birds. It is a serious problem and special attention should be given to address this problem. He thanked the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for the assistance given to developing countries and urged the world leaders to take effective steps to ensure the food security of the world population and the World Food Day is the most appropriate day to renew our pledges towards that.
Though remarkable success has been achieved by the country in terms of health indicators, the nutrition indicators are far behind in Sri Lanka. The country is facing a double burden of malnutrition with stagnant rates of under nutrition combined with growing overweight/obesity. One in six children under the age of five is too thin for their height (wasting) indicating a critical public health situation while almost one in six newborns have low birth weight. This indicates a vicious cycle of malnutrition and the need for improved maternal nutrition, including in urban settings where almost one in two women, between the age of 15-49 (reproductive age) are either overweight or obese.
“Good nutrition is a fundamental investment in human and social capital. The root causes of poor nutrition and unhealthy diets, being it consumer awareness, affordability and availability must be urgently addressed so Sri Lanka can keep pace and fully leverage the opportunities of continued economic growth and development,” said Brenda Barton, WFP Country Director and Representative. Highlighting that the building blocks are in place for Sri Lanka to meet SDG2, Ms. Nina Brandstrup, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and Maldives, said: “A push is now required to improve the nutritional status of the population, especially women and children with concrete actions to address both under- and over-nutrition”.
Today’s 2018 World Food Day event brought together hundreds of stakeholders representing various institutions including government, development partners, academia and youth. His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena graced the occasion by signing the pledge for “A Nutritious Sri Lanka by 2030”.
His Excellency also presented awards to 14 year old Miss. Sasmini Minupama Elaperuma from Vihara Mahadevi Balika Vidyalaya (Kiribathgoda), a winner of WFP’s annual global Children’s Design Competition which was themed ‘Why is having a meal at school important to you’. He also presented an award to Miss Rithini Perera from Museaus College, Colombo who was placed third in the 5 – 8 years category at the World Food Day Global Poster Contest 2017.
World Food Day has been celebrated with the Government of Sri Lanka since the establishment in Sri Lanka of WFP in 1968 and FAO in 1979. This year, November 18th, marks WFP’s 50th year of partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka.
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