By Opija Raduk
More than 14 million adults, and some 4.7 million children in Europe and Central Asia suffer from severe food insecurity. This has left millions malnourished as a result of insufficient food.
This is according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in a report while defining the situation in regards to the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES).
The study says that despite the heterogeneity of the region, there is one common challenge related to food security that is present to varying degrees in all countries of Europe and Central Asia. This is the triple burden of malnutrition consisting of undernutrition, overweight and obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies.
Mr Jose Graziano da Silva, the FAO Director-General notes that the region of Europe and Central Asia is better nourished compared to other regions where hunger is a traditional issue.
However, it has been recently affected by the impact of climate change, which impedes the efforts to grow food and have better nutrition.
“There is also another issue, the growing level of obesity reaching epidemic levels in some countries of the region,” he says.
“It is now an established fact that in Europe and richer countries, the problem is not one of undernutrition, but rather of diseases whose human impacts are more specifically due to poor nutrition and overeating,” says Carlo Petrini, the founder of the International Slow Food Movement and FAO Goodwill Ambassador for Zero Hunger for the Region of Europe.
Mr Petrini stresses that tackling these issues requires extensive food education efforts, while at the same time safeguarding small-scale farmers locally-based and sustainable economic activities.
Noting that although structured hunger is the thing of the past in the region, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia, Vladimir Rakhmanin, says that malnutrition is still present in spite of rising prosperity.
Among important challenges for food security, which need to be addressed in the region, Rakhmanin cites climate change and acute crises spilling over across borders.
He prioritizes three areas of work in the region including support to smallholder and family farmers, improving agrifood trade and market integration, and sustainable natural resource management under changing climate.
“Recently we have started focusing on nutrition issues more, addressing increasingly the negative effects of obesity and overweight including impacts of food systems on non-communicable diseases,” he adds.
Rakhmanin, also expresses his gratitude to FAO’s partners in the region for their active support, including the European Union and Turkey, in particular for their role in providing accommodation for Syrian refugees, the Russian Federation and China.
He notes that the latter, though outside the region, is actively engaged in projects in Central Asia, the Caucuses and the Balkans.
Dr Mirjana Gurinovic, Senior Researcher from the Serbia’s Centre of Research Excellence in Nurition and Metabolism Institute, gives an insight into the dynamics of all three components of malnutrition in the region.
“Malnutrition is a major obstacle to socio-economic development in many countries due to its impact on health and population with high social and public costs,” she says.
Dr Gurinovic notes that undernutrition has been decreasing in the last decade in Europe and Central Asia but is now stagnating at 6.2 percent from 2017.
“With the FAO’s support, the Government of Tajikistan is developing programmes aimed at channelling the remittances of migrants towards agricultural development in the country,” says Nusratulo Musoev, the Deputy Minister for Agriculture of Tajikistan.
Mr Musoev also notes that the government of Tajikistan and FAO are supporting a more rational use of remittances by investing money in the development of family farms as opposed to being fully spent on households’ daily needs.
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