At the second International Conference on Nutrition recently held in London, both the head of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and of the WHO (World Health Organization) have called the need for a healthy diet a human right. Their call stems from the worldwide problem of malnutrition, itself a two-prong issue. We are all familiar with one its prongs, hunger, or too little nutrition, but the other is too much nutrition resulting in obesity; either way it is malnutrition. Every country is affected, only China did not meet the criteria for its red line, but the authors of the Global Nutrition Report used at the conference say they are catching up fast. Some of malnutrition’s consequences are well known, it interferes with the development of children, with their brain function and weakens their immune systems. Actually as much as 11% of a country’s GDP is being wasted due to whatever form malnutrition takes. The FAO estimates that poor nutrition causes half the deaths of children under five. It is, some experts say, an invisible problem, and the invisibility stops action from being taken. The conference looks to alter this invisibility, raise awareness and work to address some of the underlying factors, such as sanitation, women’s health, water quality or food security. It is also hoped that the conference will help create the framework for these countries to address the issues that contribute to malnutrition.
The Right to a healthy diet may sound ideal, and it doesn’t take much knowledge or imagination to know that in today’s world it’s a long way from being a reality. Nevertheless just calling for it is an important step.