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Half of World's Population Affected by Poor Nutrition: WHO, UN Join to Tackle Problem

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Half of the world's population of 7.125 billion people are affected by poor nutrition, according to an international group.

The United Nations highlighted the problem at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), held in Rome, Italy. On November 19, officials of the international body called for greater action among member nations to eradicate the problem, affecting billions of people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is assisting the United Nations in driving countries to provide adequate nutrition to all people.

"This Conference marks a new stage in our quest to banish global hunger and malnutrition for good. I know from my own country's experience the crippling effect that hunger and malnutrition can have," Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, said. The international leader is a native of South Korea.

The Rome Declaration on Nutrition was released by the 170 nations gathered at the meeting to address issues of global hunger. The document outlines guidelines nations should follow in an effort to deliver  a healthy diet to people around the globe, as well as identifies several forms of malnutrition. Among these were wasting, micronutrient deficiencies, and obesity.

The annual report calls for nations to make nutrition information on products available to consumers, allowing the public to make informed choices about the food they are purchasing. Clear legal policies across relevant sectors of the food production system should be adopted by nations, the report states. This should be accompanied by public investment in delivering a more complete diet to the public, the group reported. Children should be guarded against inappropriate food advertising, and breastfeeding should be encouraged, participants in the conference declared.

"[M]alnutrition is often aggravated by poor infant and young child feeding and care practices, poor sanitation and hygiene, lack of access to education, quality health systems and safe drinking water, food-borne infections and parasitic infestations, ingestion of harmful levels of contaminants due to unsafe food from production to consumption," the group concluded.

The Second International Conference on Nutrition stated 161 million children suffer height loss from stunting due to chronic hunger. Around 51 million children are underweight because of poor nutrition, while 42 million children under the age of five are overweight. Worldwide, over 500 million adults are obese, and over two billion suffer from deficiencies of iodine, zinc, iron, vitamin A and other nutrients.

Better nutrition for all people requires people to avoid certain food products, according to the group.

"Encourage gradual reduction of saturated fat, sugars and salt/sodium and trans-fat from foods and beverages to prevent excessive intake by consumers and improve nutrient content of foods, as needed," the report recommended.

Nations are not legally bound by the agreement.

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