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Pacific Food Summit held in Vanuatu

Nutritionally-related diseases are serious problems in the Pacific (WRENmedia)
Nutritionally-related diseases are serious problems in the Pacific

The first Pacific Food Summit, hosted in April 2010 by the island nation of Vanuatu, ended with a resounding call for a return to nutritious traditional foods as part of a Framework Plan of Action for Food Security. In a part of the world where few people go to bed hungry, the main issues under discussion at the Summit were the over-reliance on imported and often low-quality foods, and the (closely related) high incidence of non-communicable diseases.

"Almost 30 per cent of Pacific Island people suffer from preventable non-communicable diseases," says Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. "Diabetes rates, for example, are some of the highest in the world, and in some countries nearly 80 per cent of the population are obese."

Food systems that rely on imported foods are clearly highly vulnerable to fluctuating world food prices as well as oil prices. "The 2008 jump in food prices was a wake-up call to countries that rely heavily on food imports," says Feleti Teo, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

A multi-sectoral approach, addressing agriculture, fisheries, trade and transport as well as health, is what is needed to put the Pacific back on track for a healthier, food-secure future. Diverse attendance at the Summit, with delegates from the food industry, consumer groups, educators and researchers as well as the more usual government representatives, reflected this approach. The Framework Plan of Action, which also emphasised information and advocacy to help people make healthier choices, will be considered for endorsement by heads of government at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' meeting later in the year.

Written by: Anne Moorhead

Date published: May 2010


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