Josette Sheeran,The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP),is happy with the way the Indian Government plans to deal with hunger related issues and global malnutrition.
"Hunger is on the march globally," said Josette Sheeran in New Delhi today. "In the face of the global financial crisis and the high price of food, we must all redouble our efforts to fight malnutrition throughout the world. India can be a pace-setter in helping bring an end to malnutrition and hunger. We can harness the expertise available in India to come up with products and initiatives that will save the lives of children, not just here but around the world."
Sheeran, who began her first official visit to India yesterday, said WFP had worked closely with government ministries on pilot initiatives to tackle malnutrition in some of India's most food-insecure states. She said the solutions, which include a new supplementary feeding product, could have implications for food assistance programmes across the world.
WFP has pledged to support the Government in its campaign to achieve a 'hunger free India'. India is home to more than 230 million undernourished people - the highest number for any one country in the world. More than one quarter of the global population of malnourished people live in India. It is estimated that 43 per cent of children under five years in India are underweight. Malnutrition is believed to account for nearly half of all child deaths in this country.
WFP is currently developing a 'smart' nutritional intervention for children of 6 - 24 months. Adequate nutrition for this age group is vital for their physical and cognitive development. Designed for India, this new, ready-to-use fortified food has already provoked interest elsewhere in Asia and in Africa.
Other innovative hunger solutions include a pilot project to improve the nutritional status of people with HIV and AIDS in the states of Tamil Nadu and Orissa. WFP is also working on rice fortification which has huge potential to reduce micronutrient deficiencies. India has the largest population suffering from vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the world.oday, Sheeran is due to meet the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Sharad Pawar, and the Honourable Minister of State for External Affairs, Anand Sharma. Yesterday, she met the Honourable Minister of Women and Child Development, Renuka Chowdhury.
On Friday, Sheeran is to travel to one of the most food-insecure districts of Madhya Pradesh, the state in India with the highest levels of malnutrition among children. While there, she will visit mother-and-child feeding centres ('anganwadi' centres) as well as a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre where children with acute malnutrition are treated.
As the food assistance agency of the United Nations, WFP has been active in India since 1963, helping deliver food assistance to those most in need. WFP focuses its efforts on providing technical support to the government of India. This means supporting the Government in improving the quality and performance of its food-based welfare schemes, particularly those aimed at vulnerable children and women.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency and the UN's frontline agency for hunger solutions. This year, WFP plans to feed 98 million people in 77 countries.