Progress in Reducing Malnutrition, Food Poverty

The first phase of a plan to augment household food security in seven provinces was implemented in Chabahar city in southeast Sistan-Baluchestan early December
Efforts to eliminate different forms of poverty around the world will be in vain without addressing its most basic form which is food poverty.
Efforts to eliminate different forms of poverty around the world will be in vain without addressing its most basic form which is food poverty.

The malnutrition rate in Iran dropped to 3.2% by mid-2016 from 5.1% in 1990, and Iran’s score in the 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report is 6.7%, a 0.1% improvement over its previous score in 2015.

Although it may look like a tiny fraction, the overall performance of the country since it began fighting food poverty in 1990 (and had a score of 18.5%) has been rather noteworthy.

“Efforts to eliminate different forms of poverty around the world will be in vain without addressing its most basic form which is food poverty,” said Minister of Labor, Cooperatives, and Social Welfare Ali Rabiei, speaking at the First Specialized Conference on Food Security, Health, and Development in Tehran on Monday.

“Resilience of nations in the face of challenges depends highly upon their state of food security,” he noted.

The GHI is designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally and by country and region. Calculated each year by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), it highlights successes and failures in hunger reduction and provides insights into the drivers of hunger. By raising awareness and understanding of regional and country differences, the GHI aims to trigger actions to reduce hunger.

The GHI scores are determined using a number of variables including a country’s undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality levels and results in a calculation on a 100-point scale, where 0 is the best score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst.

This year’s report, the 11th in an annual series, presents a multidimensional measure of national, regional, and global hunger of nearly 120 countries. It shows that the world has made progress in reducing hunger since 2000, but still has a long way to go, with levels of hunger serious or alarming in 50 countries.

It hails a new paradigm of international development proposed in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which envisages Zero Hunger by 2030, as one goal among 17, in a holistic, integrated, and transformative plan for the world.

Iran ranks 23rd in the world in terms of measures taken and status achieved in fighting food poverty. Over the years 1990-2015 malnourishment rate dropped to 3.2% from 4.2%, while prevalence of stunting in children under five years was reduced to 6.8% from 23.9%. The under-five mortality rate also decreased from 5.2% to 1.6%.

  Food Consumption Patterns

Iran is a nation of bread eaters, as according to official figures, Iranians consume the most bread per capita (160 kg per person) in the world after Turkey with 199.6 kg per person. European countries consume almost twice or three times less bread.

“While milk consumption in Iran is half of that in the world, bread consumption is six times the world average,” said head of the conference Shahriar Dabirian, who is board member of the Iranian Society for Quality as well as quality assurance director at Iran Dairy Industries Company (Pegah).

He underscored the necessity to raise public awareness on essential food groups, particularly among the marginalized population (living in city outskirts) or those in remote or underdeveloped areas.

“To study and evaluate food security we must look at household consumption baskets,” he added.

Nayereh Pirouzbakht, head of Iranian National Standards Organization (INSO), referred to the Codex Alimentarius (Latin for ‘Food Code’), saying that any food not harming the consumer is safe food.

Codex is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to foods, food production, and food safety.

“It is not enough just to suffice with food safety in today’s world anymore, but we’re talking of food integrity which provides assurance to consumers and other stakeholders about the safety, authenticity and quality of food,” she underlined.

“We are committed to improving and controlling bread production from farm to homes.”

A memorandum of understanding was signed recently between the Health Ministry and the INSO, by which the quality of all kinds of traditional breads would be assessed and monitored regularly by both sides.

“Our joint efforts won’t be limited to merely reducing salt amount in bread. We want to ensure that the fiber content of bread is increased by adding wheat bran to the product. A directive in this regard will be issued to all bakeries soon,” Pirouzbakht had said at an earlier function.

Fortifying bread with vitamin D is also on the agenda. At present, an average Iranian gets only 15% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D.

  Addressing Food Insecurity

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

While the rate of stunting in children under five has been reduced, it is high at 21%, 12%, and 11% in three provinces of Sistan-Baluchestan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, and Hormozgan, respectively.  

The high prevalence of bacterial and parasitic diseases in some areas also contributes to malnutrition. Similarly, malnutrition increases people’s susceptibility to severe infections.

The first phase of a plan to augment household food security in seven provinces was implemented in Chabahar city in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan in early December.

The plan seeks to enhance food security through economic empowerment of local communities by improving agriculture and aquaculture production, provision of small livestock, development of home gardens, and providing essential training.  

The interventions are delivered by the relevant state-run organizations, the health and agriculture jihad ministries, as well as non-governmental organizations. More cities in six provinces, Sistan-Baluchestan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, Ilam, Kerman, Hormozgan, and Bushehr, will be gradually covered under the plan.

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