Food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition dominate
the health of the world's poorest nations.
Alleviation of hunger and malnutrition is a
fundamental pre-requisite for poverty reduction and sustainable
More than five hundred and seventy million of the
world's women suffer from anaemia. Their babies are small, they are
weakened and tired, and their lives are at risk.
Sixty per cent of the eleven million childhood
deaths in developing countries each year are associated with
- 160 million children under five are stunted due to protein
- 740 million people suffer from iodine deficiency disorders;
- 250 million children under five suffer from Vitamin A
The results are more than the deaths. Hundreds of
millions of children have lowered defences against infectious
diseases. They do not develop to their physical and mental potential.
As a result, they lose out at school, in the workplace, and,
ultimately, in life itself.
Through the Millennium Development goals, we have
committed ourselves to cut abject poverty by half by 2015.
We will only achieve this if we can
drastically reduce malnutrition.
- This will involve serious agricultural reforms
and changes in trade;
- new policies and distribution systems that will
make this food available to the poorest;
- tackling the wasting diseases – including
HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria;
- fortification of basic food products at a price
which is affordable for the poorest;
- more scientific research and better stewardship
and governance by national leaders.
The dual scourge of hunger and malnutrition will be
truly vanquished not only when granaries are full, but also when
people’s basic health needs are met, and women are given their
rightful role in societies. The other major causes of malnutrition,
not only food shortage, must feature prominently in the way we chart
Malnutrition is also a matter of food safety.
Contaminated food is a major cause of diarrhoea, substantially
contributing to malnutrition, killing about 2.2 million people each
year, most of them children.
Investing in food safety carries big returns. It
reduces the cost of food-borne disease. It contributes to poverty
alleviation through increasing the quality and length of life, while
augmenting people’s productivity, and improves global health and
We also need to focus on the other side of the
malnutrition coin: the negative health effects connected with an
unbalanced diet, too high an intake of calories and not enough
exercise. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are no longer reserved
for the affluent and over-privileged. The rapidly growing epidemic of
non-communicable diseases, already responsible for some 60% of world
deaths, is clearly related to increased consumption of
industrially-processed fatty, salty and sugary foods.
In the slums of today's mega-cities, we are seeing
noncommunicable diseases caused by unhealthy diets and lifestyle, side
by side with under-nutrition. This double burden of disease is rapidly
becoming a serious brake on the development efforts of many countries.
But the changes in global dietary patterns have wider consequences.
Increasing meat consumption is also affecting our environment and the
nature of agricultural production.
Economic development and globalization need not be
associated with increasing inequity, hunger and chronic disease. On
the contrary, we can harness the forces of globalization to reduce
inequity, to reduce hunger and to improve health in a more just and
inclusive global society.
But for that we need new thinking and new action.
We need a longer-term perspective which places the health of people
and the health of our planet at the centre. We have the knowledge. We
know how to enable the poor to get the food they need. We know how to
avoid micro-nutrient deficiencies. We know how to encourage
breast-feeding of infants. We know how to ensure safe food from farm
to plate. We know what constitutes healthy diets.
We have the tools to make the changes. From this
Summit, I hear that we have the will. Let us now work for a world
where all can eat and live healthy lives in dignity.