1. Home
  2. Global

Making a case for nutrition

Farmers in Myanmar are often unaware of the risks of using pesticides on their fruits and vegetables
Farmers in Myanmar are often unaware of the risks of using pesticides on their fruits and vegetables (Contributor/IRIN)

In another four decades, higher average global temperatures will lead to water stress, causing food production and access to fall, which will drive an additional 24 million children into hunger, says a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). *

This forewarning should move the world towards being forearmed, according to the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN), a forum comprising UN agencies, NGOs and academics, which has been running a campaign to influence negotiators ahead of the UN climate talks from 29 November to 10 December, in Cancun, Mexico.

The effort led by the UN SCN began at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, and members of the group have been attending conferences held by various sectors in the run-up to the Cancun meeting.

The need to secure nutritional requirements in the coming decades has yet to make it into the negotiating text, said Cristina Tirado, associate professor at the Centre for Global and Immigrant Health at the University of California.

She has helped draw up a policy brief aimed at negotiators attending the Cancun talks - also referred to as COP 16, meaning the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In November 2010, the UN SCN team managed to get nutrition mentioned in a report of the Ministerial Conference on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, held in The Hague, capital of The Netherlands.

"The nutrition sector remains largely disconnected from key climate change initiatives, and nutrition only plays a subordinate role in the agriculture and food security discussions on climate change," said Philippe Crahay of the international NGO, Action contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger), who contributed to writing the UNSCN brief.

''The nutrition sector remains largely disconnected from key climate change initiatives''

Interest in revitalizing issues concerning nutrition has grown since the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that the 2007/08 food price crisis had pushed a billion people into hunger; in 2010 the number still stands at 925 million.

Targeted lobbying

The UNSCN team lobbies to position nutrition according to the needs and interests of delegations at any conference.

Experts in delegations from the agriculture sector are told that when climate-tolerant crops are discussed in the adaptation track of the talks, they need to focus on policies and practices that encourage people to plant and breed hardier indigenous varieties, grow groundnuts and other foods for communities affected by HIV/AIDS, or breed fish in backyard ponds for protein, said Tirado.

"Producing more food does not necessarily lead to better access to food, or to an improved nutritional status of those who need it most," the brief noted. Policy-makers and agriculturalists should be aware of which crops and livestock would provide people with well-balanced food sources, and grow these.

Read more
The link between undernutrition and climate change
Race is on to implement nutrition initiative

The brief cited studies in 2006 by the IFPRI in Kenya and the Philippines, where "the adoption of cash crops expanded food supply and doubled the household incomes of small farmers, but showed that children's energy intake increased only from four to seven percent, and that child undernutrition was little changed."

Several studies in the developing world have shown a strong relationship between the impact of natural hazards on food availability, and the subsequent effects on economic growth and the health of children.

A recent series of studies by top researchers from the World Bank and IFPRI showed that most of the children exposed to droughts in Zimbabwe between 1982 and 1984, when they were aged between one and two, suffered malnutrition, which affected their cognitive development and projected much lower lifetime earnings.

The UNSCN brief prepared for the negotiators at COP16 calls for a twin-track approach to ensure that food and nutrition security will help reduce vulnerability, and build resilience to cope with a changing climate.

One of the tracks will fall under the adaptation segment and push for scaling up nutrition-specific interventions and safety nets. The other track calls for a multi-sectoral approach that includes sustainable agriculture, health and social protection schemes, risk reduction and risk management plans, and climate-resilient community-based development.

The brief also suggested that money to fund nutrition interventions, or technological innovations aimed at improving nutrition, should come out of the various climate funds under the UNFCCC.


* The article was amended to cite the correct reference

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

It was The New Humanitarian’s investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that uncovered sexual abuse by aid workers during the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo and led the World Health Organization to launch an independent review and reform its practices.

This demonstrates the important impact that our journalism can have. 

But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking. 

We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone.

The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and shine a light on similar abuses. 

Become a member today and support independent journalism

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.