DUBAI, May 26 /CNW/ - While wealthy Gulf States are grappling with a new epidemic of obesity, millions across the Middle East and North Africa still suffer the hidden hunger of under-nutrition.
This is the 'double-burden' of malnutrition in the MENA region and both conditions are rooted in poor diet lacking in vitamins and minerals.
These two faces of malnutrition are being tackled at a conference taking place in Dubai 25-26 May. Opened by HE Reem Al-Hashimy, State Minister, Cabinet of the UAE, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)'s Global Forum is hosted in the MENA region for the first time.
Marc Van Ameringen, Executive Director of GAIN, said "simple, affordable solutions are available. We are appealing to the region's leaders and businesses to get on board and help to enhance the health of the malnourished communities in the region while educating their wealthier neighbours in good eating habits."
The Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation has already announced a commitment to support the fight against malnutrition in Afghanistan.
"If malnutrition is not tackled now, Afghanistan's economic, social and intellectual capacity will be compromised. The Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation is proud to be working with GAIN over the next 3 years to reduce malnutrition in Afghanistan by 30%, targeting infants and young children," said a statement from The Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation.
Obesity in the Gulf states is at an all time high, particularly shocking among adolescents, with figures as high as 52.5 per cent in this age group in Bahrain, 35.2 per cent in the UAE and 45.3 per cent in Kuwait.
Yet on the other hand, under-nutrition in other MENA countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Yemen and Afghanistan is having dire consequences. 10 per cent of children under five do not weigh enough for their age, and 32 per cent in the same group are short for their age. Anaemia is widespread, with rates among pre-schoolers as high as 85 per cent in Sudan and 68 per cent in Yemen. Among pregnant women, more than 55 per cent are anaemic in Afghanistan and Yemen, and up to 40 per cent in Egypt and Algeria.
"3.5 million children die of malnutrition worldwide, 2 billion people suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies and 1.02 billion go to bed hungry every night. This is unacceptable. It is the future of our children that is at stake," said Jay Naidoo, Chairman of GAIN and of the Southern African Development Bank.
GAIN creates partnerships to deliver sustainable food fortification programs throughout the world, with a unique market-based approach linking governments, businesses, NGOs and donors.
In Egypt, millions eat subsidised baladi bread fortified with folic acid and iron. In a new scheme taking shape there, vegetable oil will be fortified with vitamin A, and oil producers provided with equipment and technical help.
In Morocco, a third of the national wheat flour market has been supplemented with iron, folic acid and other B vitamins and more than 71 per cent of the national vegetable oil market has been fortified with vitamins A and D.
GAIN advocates fortification of food staples and salt iodization as simple, cheap and effective solutions to improve health in high-risk groups and enable children to reach their full potential. It also promotes healthy eating campaigns aimed at reducing the risk of obesity-linked chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
On 25-26 May 2010 in Dubai, the 4th GAIN Business Alliance Global Forum 2010 - GAIN Insight - convenes business, government, NGOs and academia to collaborate for a new era free from malnutrition.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is an alliance driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition. GAIN was created in 2002 at a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children. GAIN is a Swiss foundation that mobilizes public-private partnerships and provides financial and technical support to deliver foods to those people most at risk of malnutrition. GAIN's innovative partnerships in more than 25 countries are reaching over 200 million people. Its portfolio is growing and its target is to reach one billion people with innovative nutritious foods. GAIN is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Offices in Beijing, Cairo, Johannesburg, and New Delhi support programs where they are needed most.
SOURCE GAIN - GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR IMPROVED NUTRITION
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