UN to help Pacific nations with diet and health issues

Wednesday October 14, 2020 Written by Published in Small World

The United Nations wants to help turn the tide on unhealthy eating in the Pacific with a new project aimed at reviewing existing dietary guidelines and promoting healthier lifestyles.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation is collaborating with government officials and private sector figures from six Pacific countries in a major new effort to overhaul dietary guidelines in a bid to promote healthier lifestyles.

In 2021, a workshop will be conducted in Samoa about the programme with the six participating countries sharing their experiences to date and the lessons learnt while implementing updated national guidelines.

The food-based dietary guidelines are intended to establish a basis for nutrition, health – as well as agricultural policies and education programmes – to foster healthy eating habits and lifestyles.

According to a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)statement released online, the new partnership follows requests from regional governments for technical assistance in revising and implementing new dietary guidelines.

In response, the FAO is designing and funding a regional project to be rolled out in Fiji, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

With a total budget of US$338,000 the initiative will continue through 2021 and support the development and endorsement of new national guidelines.

The new guidelines for healthy living will be adapted to suit each country’s own systems, culture and food environment context, the FAO statement says.

After government approval of the guidelines, the project will establish a national plan for implementing new guidelines in six Pacific countries, combined with an evaluation survey.

Several country-specific activities will take place including training on the new guidelines to improve food security, nutrition security and health.

Specific groups will be targeted for the training, including health officials and professionals, teachers and principals  school food vendors and cooks, agricultural officials, church groups and food businesses, ranging from restaurants to supermarkets.

Country specific information, education and communication materials will be provided.

Each country’s project rollout will be overseen by a Technical Task Force Team to steer decisions on matters such as the nature of training materials and the cultural context of guidelines.

Technical Task Force members are expected to include stakeholders from relevant Ministries, community and church groups, health groups,and NGOs.

The FAO said that Covid-19 travel restrictions had increased the difficulty of rolling out the project.  Meetings between government counterparts from the various island nations will be held mainly by video conferencing.

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