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SCN Side Event at the 34th Session of the Committee on World Food Security
Impact of High Food Prices on Nutrition
On 14 October 2008, the SCN held a Side Event focusing on the Impact of High Food Prices on Nutrition at the 34th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) that took place 14 to 17 October 2008 at FAO, Rome. The Session was chaired by David Nabarro and the results were reported back to the CFS on its last day of meeting.
The objectives of the Side Event were twofold:
- Inform CFS members about the effects of high food prices (or of policies related to these) on the nutrition status of different livelihoods groups
- Stimulate a debate on the possible short-term and longterm policies/actions that may help to allay the negative effects of the crisis, taking into consideration the context-specific nature of the latter.
With the recent increase in food prices, hunger and undernutrition have regained high visibility on the international agenda. Every year, 3.5 million children die from undernutrition. The food price crisis is estimated to have pushed at least 100 million people into poverty in 2008 and therefore erased at least four years of progress towards MDG1. At household level, escalating prices have increased staple food expenditure to over 60% of many poor families’s meagre income. This issue was brought up at the 35th Session of the SCN in Hanoi, and as a consequence a SCN side event was organised on occasion of the 34th Session of CFS.
The highly attended panel in FAO HQs was chaired by Dr. David Nabarro, Deputy Coordinator of the UN Task Force on Global Food Crisis and was composed of Dr. Ezzeddine Boutrif, Director of FAO’s Nutrition and Consumer Protection division, Ian Darnton-Hill, formerly Special Adviser to UNICEF Executive Director on ending child hunger and undernutrition (REACH); Pablo Eyzaguirre, Bioversity and Martin Wolpold-Bosien, FIAN, who presented different dimensions of this issue. The following debate emphasized the need for a multidisciplinary and multilevel approach involving all relevant stakeholders. To date, efforts to deal with high food prices have focussed on production and poverty and have so far fallen short of the needed impact. Participants recommended the addition of a nutrition dimension combining increased institutional and government involvement, right to food, promotion of local foods and management of biodiversity, gender as well as support to small farmers and consumer education. This echoed the opening speech of the former president of Nigeria, His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, who suggested that countries return to national food security since recent events had proven that reliance on international market forces was no longer adequate. The meeting brought attention to the roles the SCN and the REACH initiative can and should play in this process and to the need for mainstreaming nutrition into relevant policies.
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|COMMITTEE ON WORLD FOOD SECURITY 34th Session, Rome, 14-17 October 2008
SCN SIDE EVENT: Impact of High Food Prices on Nutrition
Tuesday 14 October 2008, Green Room, 13.30 - 15.00
Organized by the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition
Chair: David Nabarro, Deputy Coordinator, UN Task Force on Global Food Crisis
|1330-1335||Welcoming remarks by the chair|
|1335-1340||Introduction to the session
Ezzeddine Boutrif, SCN Steering Committee
|1340-1350||Impact of High
Food Prices on food consumption and nutrition
Ian Darnton Hill, special advisor to UNICEF Executive Director on ending child hunger and undernutrition
|1350-1400||Coping with high
food prices: making better use of local food sources
Pablo Eyzaguirre (Bioversity International)
|1400-1410||High food prices and Right to food
Martin Wolpold-Bosien (FIAN)
|1455-1500||Conclusions by the chair|
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After introductory remarks by the Chair and the SCN representative, three panellists introduced the following complementary perspectives on the topic:
- The rapid increase in international prices of basic food commodities is having an impact on food consumption, in particular that of the most vulnerable households (poor net-food purchasers, particularly in urban areas). One primary coping mechanism is decreased consumption of quality food, thereby aggravating micro-nutrient deficiencies and affecting primarily women of child-bearing age and children under two. Even in the absence of protein-energy malnutrition, both short term and long-term effects on health and physical and mental development are to be expected, leading in turn to impaired economic development.
- Food and agriculture policies worldwide have led to increased dependence on imported foods, and in particular grains, and have too often been limited to ensuring caloric intake, thereby increasing vulnerability of food systems and diet imbalance. A better use of local food sources can provide a healthier, cheaper and more sustainable alternative, through increased production and consumption of micro-nutrient rich, and usually fresh, foods.
- The comprehensive response to high food prices should adopt a rights-based approach and in particular seek to operationalize the right to food. Civil society has a major role to play in both short term response and promotion of more appropriate policies and programmes. The lack of awareness of vulnerable populations about their fundamental rights prevents them from influencing policies that have an impact on their livelihoods.
The following issues and recommendations were brought up during the ensuing debate:
- It is essential to understand the coping mechanisms of vulnerable households with a view to protect dietary intake (in particular of women of child-bearing age and children under two) and promote sustainable responses. This is crucial to develop locally appropriate responses but also to bring vulnerable people and local institutions into the process, thereby constituting a basis for a rights-based approach.
- Priority should be given to promoting more resilient food systems. Improved use of local foods in India has proven an effective way to address micro-nutrient deficiencies (such as iron). Sustainable management of biodiversity is important for healthy diets, income generation and local development.
- While the causes and mechanisms of food crisis can vary widely, household responses and coping mechanisms follow very similar patterns. Lessons learned and recommendations made could therefore be applied in a broader context.
- Efforts are needed to raise awareness about the impact of high food prices on nutrition to better prevent impacts on health and economic development.
- Local capacity should be built to empower vulnerable people and to ensure accountability of institutions at all levels. The right to food has a key role to promote both empowerment and accountability. FAO’s work to assist Member States to implement the Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food should be pursued.
- Present food and agriculture policies are based on a commodity-based, value-chain model. This should be complemented by an integrated local development approach that combines availability of a variety of locally produced foods at different times of the year, supply of local markets, appropriate consumer information, and sustainable management of natural resources. Such an approach would help reduce transport costs and improve access to fresh foods.
- Research, education and training on production and consumption of traditional and indigenous foods is essential to diversify diets, protect biodiversity and strengthen cultures and social cohesion.
- A comprehensive response to the food crisis should include the systematic integration of sectoral interventions such as food aid, health, agriculture, education and social affairs at local level. In order to be coherent and sustainable, it should articulate local and global policies and actions, and ensure synergies to protect and promote nutrition.
- Inter-institutional mechanisms and initiatives such the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition and the REACH: Ending Child Hunger and Undernutrition Initiative, which bring together UN agencies, governments, NGOs and civil society can add value to this process.
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- A background document developed by the SCN Secretariat in consultation with the Steering Committee and FAO AGN entitled "The Impact of High Food Prices on Maternal and Child Nutrition" discusses how to ensure food and nutrition security outcomes during the food prices crisis across the life course. The background paper was also printed in SCN News 37
- A one-page concept note describes the background for the Side Event and its objectives.
- All documents from the Side Event are also posted to the FAO web site for the 34th Session of the Committee on World Food Security.
- Read more about the Committee on World Food Security
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