Minister Senley Filualea delivers the statement on behalf of the Pacific Region. Sitting on the right is his Permanent Secretary Mrs. Ethel Tebengi Frances.
Solomon Islands presents, on behave of the Pacific Islands Region, the challenges of meeting Food Security and Nutritional Needs of the people of the Pacific Islands, to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and its Partners at the Launching of the Asia andPacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2020 Report.
Read below the full speech delivered by the Honourable Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Hon Senley Levi Filualea during a virtual meeting on Wednesday 20th January 2021.
Persistent health issues affecting children of Pacific nations remain a challenge.
While obesity, overweight and diabetes are central to the crisis of malnutrition in Asia and the Pacific, we should not underestimate the existence of stunting and anemia in the region that largely results from micronutrient deficiencies. For example, prevalence of stunting in children under five years old was as high as 32 per cent in Solomon Islands in 2015.
In the Pacific, more than one fifth of children and pregnant women are anemic, and the prevalence of anemia exceeds 40 percent in Fiji, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. The threshold for ‘severe’ anemia rates is 40 percent.
In addition, COVID-19 is rolling back important development gains that were made in improving child and maternal health. There is evidence in the Pacific region to suggest that gender-based violence may have increased during the crisis as greater restrictions are placed on households and people that have lost their jobs are forced to spend more time at home. For example, records from the Samoa Victim Support Group show that between 2019 and 2020, the number of child abuse cases increased by 56 per cent, while domestic violence cases also increased by 55 per cent.
These gender related changes, which also have implications for maternal and child health can affect access to, and quality of diets, and are largely linked to the ongoing COVID-19 lock downs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Pacific region on a different levels, reducing access to and affordability of healthy diets and foods due to reduced movements, which affects food imports and access to agriculture inputs and equipment, leading to higher food prices. The reduction in the tourism industry, which is a very important economic driver in the Pacific, has significantly affected the income for local people and their ability to afford healthy foods in the local markets.
Many women work in markets in urban areas and depend on the income generated from selling their produce on a daily basis. With the closure of markets, the ability to feed their families has been greatly affected. Pregnant and lactating women are also likely to be affected due to difficulties in reaching doctors and clinics during curfews and other restrictions.
Note that many Pacific nations are spread over large and remote territories, presenting different constraints to the food systems and production, i.e. small land surfaces, long supply chains, lack of supporting processing and marketing infrastructure for fisheries, etc. Hence many countries rely on imported processed foods with high sugar and fat contents, limiting choices and accessibility to healthy diets.
Climate change has been badly affecting the region, with the natural resource base important for agriculture, livelihoods and food systems significantly affected by droughts, cyclones etc. Sea level rise continues to reduce land surfaces, and warming oceans affect fish stocks, which are important for the quality of family diets.
Urban populations are growing rapidly in the Pacific due to the availability of adequate livelihoods. Populations of urban centers are growing at twice the rate of the rural population means there are significant implications for food security and nutrition, especially due to the accompanying changing patterns of food consumption.
To address this complex web of challenges, clear action is needed to prioritize healthy diets in general, and maternal and child diets in particular, through a more resilient food system. The promotion of improved eating habits and lifestyle choices, crop diversification, including traditional and indigenous crops and roots, more sustainable natural resources management and better local food processing and supply chain management can contribute to better affordability of healthy diets in the region.
Media Release from MAL Information and Media Office