Ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms is about more than securing enough food to survive - what people eat must also be nutritious. However, nutritious foods and, by extension, healthy diets are unaffordable and unattainable for vast numbers of families. Over 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet. In sub-Saharan African and southern Asia this is the case for 57 percent of the population. The effects of climate change are likely to make this problem worse. In 2019, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that increased carbon-dioxide levels lower the nutritional value of inexpensive food staples like rice and wheat.
In the context of a deepening crisis of hunger and malnutrition brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, a food system transformation is urgently needed to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and increase the affordability of healthy diets. Evidence-based and highly cost-effective solutions that can reach all people, such as fortifying staple foods like maize meal, rice, wheat flour, cooking oil, and salt with essential vitamins and minerals is a crucial intervention that can help to ensure that the food system delivers a more nutritious diet to all.
Two Key Opportunities on the Horizon for 2021
The UN Food Systems Summit, UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and Tokyo Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit will take place towards the end of 2021. All three events are key milestones on the road to recovery from the devastating impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic on food security and nutrition. The summits are also key moments to mobilize support for and prioritization of staple food fortification as a no-regrets, gamechanging intervention to fight disease and poverty among the world’s most vulnerable communities. The need to accelerate progress is particularly apparent considering the imminent conclusion of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition in 2025 and the 2030 deadline for meeting the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).