December 16, 2021
Properly eating nutritious food is the very essence of living a healthy life. However, looking across the globe, while there are people suffering from hunger, obesity is on the rise in most parts of the world. The issue of nutrition is not just a problem faced by others but a challenge for everyone on the planet.
The Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021, an international conference that promotes global efforts to improve nutrition and to further contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, was held on Dec. 7 and 8.
The world faces not only “undernutrition,” which is a lack of nutrition, but also “overnutrition,” which is the excessive consumption of an unbalanced diet that leads to health problems. According to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, while about 149.2 million people, or 22% of the world's children under the age of five, are considered to be chronically undernourished and stunted (of too short statue for their age), it is said that 40 million are overweight or obese.
Undernutrition stems from food shortages or lack of access to food, and it is also the result of chronic diarrhea caused by poor sanitation even when food is available. The nutritional issue relates to various fields such as health, agriculture and food, water and sanitation, and education, and therefore, a cross-field effort, or in other words, a multi-sectoral approach, is essential to solve this problem.
In the African country of Mozambique, JICA is collaborating with various ministries and agencies in agriculture, health, and water and sanitation fields to promote wide-ranging cooperation. This includes the cultivation of highly nutritious vegetables and the construction of stable water supply facilities, as well as conveying the importance of a nutritionally balanced diet through the use of Maternal and Child Health Handbooks.
At an official side event, “Advancing Multi-Sectoral Approach for Nutrition-Experiences of IFNA and its Future,” held on Dec. 1 in advance of the Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021, Ms. Celmira da Silva, executive secretary of the National Council for the Security and Nutrition, Mozambique, said, “In Mozambique's northern province of Niassa, we are seeking to reduce stunting by combining JICA's cooperation in three sectors: health, agriculture, and water and sanitation. In order to achieve even better results, it has become important to find ways to coordinate these efforts.”
Although Japan experienced serious food shortages following World War II, it now has one of the longest living populations in the world and has managed to keep both adult and childhood obesity at a low level. This can be attributed to a variety of initiatives, such as the education and training of nutrition specialists, disseminating and utilizing the Maternal and Child Health Handbook, introducing school lunches, and conducting the National Health and Nutrition Survey. JICA is leveraging this expertise to promote cooperation in improving nutrition in developing countries.
Children serving school lunches at a primary school in Mongolia
One example of such initiative is the introduction of school lunches in Mongolia. We are implementing measures to enhance administrative abilities and develop a system to provide safe and well-balanced school lunches using ingredients produced in the region. Mongolia has set a target of providing safe and well-balanced school lunches in all primary and secondary schools in the country by 2025.
JICA Senior Advisor Dr. NOMURA Marika, who was involved in the planning of this cooperative project, comments, “In Mongolia, we will start by formulating school lunch intake standards, create a system for procuring available local ingredients, and train personnel to plan nutritious and delicious menus. Through this project, we will utilize Japan's experience and expertise in order to provide school lunches for Mongolian children.”
At the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021 official side event, “Empowering Every Child for Healthier Future - Potential of School Feeding and Nutrition Education-,” co-hosted by UNICEF on Dec. 2, discussions were held on improving nutrition for the future of children by the speakers of developing countries, UNICEF, academia, private sector, and JICA.
On the first day of the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021 on Dec. 7, the official high-level side event on "Human Security and Nutrition -Addressing the double burden of malnutrition through the realization of collective impact-" was held, inviting key development partners working in the field of nutrition. The speakers shared the commitment to nutritional issues of each institution and exchanged their views on effective collaboration among partners towards achieving maximum effectiveness.
In this event, JICA announced the “JICA Nutrition Declaration: Nutrition for All: Ten-Point Commitment to Realize Human Security,” which summarizes efforts to improve nutrition.
JICA President KITAOKA Shinichi said, in anticipation of the future, "Nutrition is the basis of human life and health and, therefore, is one of the most important foundations for Human Security. The most distinctive feature of JICA's approach is its development cooperation based on Japan's own experience, such as introducing Maternal and Child Health Handbooks and school lunches. Based on this declaration, JICA will strengthen partnerships among various stakeholders in order to realize our shared goal of "Nutrition for All."