UNICEF shapes food summit agenda with children’s ideas

The UN is leading a series of dialogues with children in Cambodia and 19 other countries to gain a new perspective on food insecurity due to poverty, the cascading consequences of climate change on food systems and the implications for nutrition and health, ahead of a key peak set for later this year.

On July 1, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it had organized four such national dialogues in the Kingdom on June 24 and 25 with 40 children aged 10 to 19, in collaboration with the Council of agriculture and rural development (CARD).

The dialogues will help shape the agenda for the Food Systems Summit, which is due to take place in September alongside the United Nations General Assembly in New York, US, UNICEF said.

He noted that the summit would be held under the aegis of the Decade of Action, a global initiative to ensure that the goals set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are met by 2030.

“With only 10 years remaining, many of the 17 SDGs remain elusive. In many cases, unsustainable food systems – that is, the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food – are making part of the problem, ”the UN agency said. .

He added that the summit is “designed to be a turning point in the world’s journey towards lasting change.”

“School-aged children and adolescents need good nutrition to support their physical and mental development.

“Unfortunately, many are vulnerable to malnutrition due to factors such as limited access to safe and healthy food, low incomes, poverty and prevailing cultural norms for nutrition and child care.

“This contributes to stunting which has a lifelong impact. The large number of severely wasted Cambodian children who do not receive treatment adds to the burden of morbidity and mortality in the population under 5. years.

“The period of adolescence is a second window of opportunity to prevent further malnutrition through targeted nutrition services,” said UNICEF.

The Kingdom’s economic success in recent years has dramatically reduced the depth of its food deficit, he said.

The proportion of the population reported to be undernourished increased from 29% in 2001 to 15.3% in 2016, he said, citing his sister United Nations agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization. agriculture (FAO).

Despite this, UNICEF added, many households spend more than 70% of their income on food, some 2.3 million Cambodians still suffer from severe food insecurity, while 32% of Cambodian children under 5-year-olds suffered from chronic malnutrition in 2014.

Hean Sopheap, a 14-year-old schoolboy who took part in the dialogues said: “In my town our struggle is drought and lack of water, some years our crops have yielded less, and in some seasons everything is dead. during the dry season. because there was no water to grow rice and crops.

“I want our community to develop better skills in animal and plant breeding, so that we can have more agricultural and meat yields without using chemicals to increase production,” he said, as quoted by UNICEF.

The annual economic burden of malnutrition in the Kingdom exceeds $ 400 million, or 2.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), the United Nations agency said.

He said national programs currently only treat about 10 percent of children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition nationwide.

“The ongoing social impact assessment of Covid-19, supported by UNICEF and other partners, shows that households have increasingly adopted negative coping strategies to access food, especially by reducing their food consumption or switching to cheaper and less healthy ingredients.

“The dialogues with these children and youth will help UNICEF, the Royal Government of Cambodia and other partners understand children’s views and perspectives on food systems.

“The dialogues will explore their experiences, ideas and ideas on how food systems should change.

Food systems are currently affected by the secondary impacts of Covid-19 and children are likely to be among the most affected, so it is essential to ensure their commitment at this stage, ”said UNICEF

UNICEF Cambodia Representative Foroogh Foyouzat noted that young people are particularly sensitive to the negative impacts of food insecurity.

“Not only do they need healthy, sustainable food to grow and learn, but they will have to live on a planet that can be severely affected by the functioning of food systems.

“We know that food systems contribute a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides can also have devastating ecological impacts.

“We need young people to be part of the decisions that will have a direct impact on their future and we need their innovative thinking to reinvent a new way to build food systems, a way to serve healthy people and a planet. healthy, ”he said.

UNICEF said its dialogues around the world “will culminate in a high-level advocacy event on behalf of the young participants at the Food Systems Summit.”

“Dialogue sessions are guided by child-friendly methods and materials developed in collaboration with UNICEF and Western Sydney University.

“UNICEF wishes to recognize CARD’s leadership in the food systems dialogues in Cambodia and recognize the contribution of the University of Western Sydney, Plan International, the World Food Program and Helen Keller International in making the dialogues a success. “, he added.

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