President of the African Development Bank (AFDB), Akinwumi Adesina has called for urgent action from stakeholders over the deepening crisis of global malnutrition.
Adesina made the call as he joined key nutrition actors, private-sector representatives, policy-makers and thought leaders at the 2017 World Food Prize-Borlaug Dialogue Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday.
According to him, “Poor nutrition has become the number one killer in the world. It’s therefore high time to address this seriously and decisively.”
He explained how many low- and middle-income countries now experience a ‘triple burden’ of malnutrition, where under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies co-exist with obesity and other diseases related to diets.
“We must face the reality that unhealthy foods now pose the greatest danger to the health of urban dwellers,” he stressed. “In short: Urban foods are energy rich, but nutrient poor. The changing face of urban areas aggravates malnutrition. We must address the problems of rapidly expanding slums, globally and especially, in Africa.”
The Global Panel report highlights critical areas that deserve attention in dealing with the link between urbanization and malnutrition.
“First, we need to have stricter food market regulations in urban areas, especially for informal food markets,” Adesina said. “Second, to reduce pressure on urban food systems, policies should be used to promote more sustainable peri-urban agriculture, especially for vegetables, legumes and other nutrient-rich crops. Third, better policies are needed to link rural and urban food systems, with greater investments in infrastructure, transport logistics, storage and markets, to assure steady supply of foods to cities and secondary towns.”
To cut back on rising obesity, urban areas need to invest in better education on health and nutrition, support physical activities and tax sugar drinks, he added.