MANILA – The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), despite impressive economic growth and cultural diversity, is still home to many ironies, such as the double burden of malnutrition. Undernutrition and obesity remain to be a big threat across the region.
Prevalence of stunting (low height-for-age) and wasting (low weight-for-age) among children under five remains a severe public health problem in the ASEAN Member States. This is according to the 2016 Regional Report on Nutrition Security in ASEAN, Volume 2 published by the ASEAN, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 8 out of the 10 ASEAN Member States, an estimated 5.4 million children suffer wasting and 17.9 million children are stunted. While undernutrition is a major contributing factor to child’s illness, overnutrition or obesity among children under five years is high at 10% and the trend is still going up.
To address all these forms of malnutrition, the Philippines’ National Nutrition Council will host the ASEAN Multi-Sectoral Collaborative Workshop on Nutrition Security during the ASEAN Chairmanship of the Philippines in 2017, where delegates from the 10 ASEAN Member States will meet on March 7-9 in Pasay City.
This is a major step forward to a multi-sectoral collaboration on food security and nutrition among sectors such as agriculture, public health and nutrition, and social welfare, through creating coherent and synergistic actions that are crucial in scaling up and accelerating progress toward better nutrition at the country and regional levels.
Moreover, the program aims to agree on the provisions of the proposed ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Ending All Forms of Malnutrition and the planned establishment of the ASEAN Nutrition Surveillance System.
Participants include delegates from the ministries of health, agriculture, and social welfare of the ASEAN Member States: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Representatives from the United Nations Organizations such as the UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office, WHO for Western Pacific and South-East Asia regional offices, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for Asia and Pacific, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, will serve as resource persons providing technical updates on global nutrition goals, strategies, and areas for collaboration.
These efforts to address malnutrition in all its forms is a priority in the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda under the Health Cluster 1 work program target to promote good nutrition and healthy diets.