JAKARTA, 22 February 2017 - “We need to bring all sectors and stakeholders together and harness our comparative advantages in order to address malnutrition in the ASEAN region and other parts of the world,” said Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee during a courtesy visit by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement Coordinator Ms. Gerda Verburg to the ASEAN Secretariat.
Ms. Verburg expressed her appreciation for ASEAN’s recognition of food security and nutrition as an important, permanent and high priority policy agenda. She expressed hopes that the ASEAN would be willing to serve as a convenor in the region in the sharing of practices and lessons learned in efforts to curb malnutrition and all its forms. She noted that the SUN countries she has visited have the strong desire and confidence in addressing malnutrition, and may need support through sharing of knowledge and best practices. According to her, the SUN Countries also indicated that the ASEAN can be an avenue for such mechanism.
“It should not be business as usual if we are to make substantial difference and sustainable impact, and ultimately contribute to the realisation of the targets set by the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals on ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture,” DSG Vongthep added.
The SUN Movement operates on the principle that everyone has the right to food and good nutrition. SUN is a renewed effort to eliminate malnutrition and its vision is to ensure a world free from malnutrition in all its forms by 2030. It supports collective action to ensure every child, adolescent, mother and family can realise their right to food and nutrition and reach their full potential and shape sustainable and prosperous societies. Governments, including ASEAN Member States such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines and Viet Nam, civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and scientists are part of the SUN Movement.
DSG Vongthep expressed willingness to play the role of regional convenor by building on existing multi-sectoral platform in the ASEAN region on food security and nutrition – which currently includes agriculture and food, health, social welfare, rural development and poverty eradication. The meeting also exchanged views on advocacy, capacity development and multi-sectoral engagement as some of the areas where the SUN Movement and ASEAN can work together.
The Regional Report on Nutrition Security in ASEAN Volume 2 published in 2016 shows that the prevalence of stunting and wasting in children under-five remains high in many ASEAN Member States. Stunting constitutes a severe public health problem in half of AMS. An estimated 5.4 million children suffer wasting and 17.9 million are stunted. Other AMS have rates of overweight/obesity in children under five of over 10% and this trend is up.
Addressing malnutrition and all its forms is a health priority under the ASEAN Post 2015 Health Development Agenda for 2016-2020. Health Cluster 1 Work Programme specifies activities to promote good nutrition and healthy diet including the establishment of the ASEAN Nutrition Surveillance System, the conduct of the ASEAN multi-sectoral workshop on ending all forms of malnutrition and the development of the ASEAN Framework of Action for Nutrition Security.
DSG Vongthep said that even though food security and nutrition have been ASEAN’s priority, the region is renewing its political commitment and injecting new impetus for the implementation of strategies, programmes and initiatives to address malnutrition and all its forms. It is also working towards multi-sectoral plan of action to achieve food and nutrition security and to ensure regional promotion of good nutrition. Through the leadership of the Philippines as current ASEAN Chair, the “ASEAN Leaders Declaration on Ending All Forms of Malnutrition” is currently being developed through policy discussions among stakeholder groups and proposed to be adopted at the 31st ASEAN Summit this November.
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