FAO, partners end food security, nutrition forum

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By Maimuna Sey-Jawo A daylong food security and nutrition forum ended at the Senegambia Beach hotel Thursday. It was organised by the FAO, the National Nutrition Agency, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and United Purpose. Other key public and private sector institutions in food and nutrition related issues also took part. “The overall goal of the workshop [was] to increase awareness of key stakeholders on the integrated food fortification project (industrial fortification and bio-fortification) for enhanced collaboration and coordination,” the programme manager of the Ballu-tim-maring-ngo project, and United Purpose official Ousman Jammeh said. Jammeh said the country has already experienced an “alarming increase” in malnutrition. “Agriculture accounts for 23% of GDP and employs 75% of the rural population, yet food security is an increasing problem with 285,000 people at risk of food insecurity. “Cereal production dropped by 23% overall from 2013 to 2014 as a result of environmental challenges and is on a declining trend despite increasing population. For example, early millet production declined by 14% since 2009. Food and nutrition security are a challenge in all five regions of the Gambia.” He said scarcity of nutritious food and knowledge on nutrition is a further challenge particularly for mothers, which “results into critical deficiencies for children.” Perpetua Katepa Kalala, FAO country rep, also weighed in on the discussion, explaining that micronutrient deficiencies have profound negative implications for child and maternal health. “They often go unnoticed for a long time in an individual before symptoms become apparent,” she added. According to her, in The Gambia, prevalence rates of acute malnutrition and stunting remain high. “According to the 2013 National Demographic and Household survey, 25 percent of children less than five years were stunted, 16 percent wasted and only 17 percent received iron supplement, 69 percent received vitamin A while 34 percent of children 6-59 months received de-worming table, 60 percent of women of reproductive age were found to be anemic while 45 percent received iron supplements.” To combat these challenges, Kalala said the FAO and United Purpose fortification project has strategies for vulnerable women and children aimed at ensuring access to and consumption of micronutrient rich foods, industrially fortified as well as bio-fortified with cohesive strategies for promoting better nutrition outcomes. Ansumana Jarju, the director general of Nari, also spoke at the forum.]]>