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The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2013 report says malnutrition in all its forms imposes unacceptably high economic and social costs on countries at all income levels.

It said improving nutrition and reducing these costs must begin with food and agriculture adding that the traditional role of agriculture in producing food and generating income is fundamental, but agriculture and the entire food system ? from inputs and production, through processing, storage, transport and retailing, to consumption ? could contribute much more to the eradication of malnutrition.

The report entitled: ?Food Systems for Better Nutrition,? was made available on Tuesday by the FAO Media Relations in Rome to the Ghana News Agency.

It noted that FAO?s most recent estimates indicate that 12.5 per cent of the world?s population (868 million people) were undernourished in terms of energy intake, yet these figures represent only a fraction of the global burden of malnutrition.

The report said an estimated 26 per cent of the world?s children were stunted, 2 billion people suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiencies and 1.4 billion people were overweight, of whom 500 million are obese.

It said most countries were burdened by multiple types of malnutrition which may coexist within the same country, household or individual.

?The social cost of malnutrition, measured by the ?disability-adjusted life years? lost to child and maternal malnutrition and to overweight and obesity, are very high.

?Beyond the social cost, the cost to the global economy caused by malnutrition, as a result of lost productivity and direct health care costs, could account for as much as 5 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to $3.5 trillion per year or $500 per person.

?The costs of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are estimated at 2?3 per cent of global GDP, equivalent to $1.4?2.1 trillion per year.

?Although no global estimates of the economic costs of overweight and obesity exist, the cumulative cost of all non communicable diseases, for which overweight and obesity are leading risk factors, were estimated to be about $1.4 trillion in 2010,? the report said.

It said child and maternal malnutrition ? in particular child underweight, child micronutrient deficiencies and poor breastfeeding practices ? impose by far the largest nutrition-related health burden at the global level, responsible for almost twice the social costs of adult overweight and obesity.

The report said the social burden due to child and maternal malnutrition has declined almost by half during the last two decades, while that due to overweight and obesity has almost doubled, yet the former remains by far the greater problem, especially in low-income countries.

It said the root causes of malnutrition were even more complex and encompasses the broader economic, social, political, cultural and physical environment.

?Addressing malnutrition, therefore, requires integrated action and complementary interventions in agriculture and the food system in general, public health and education, as well as in broader policy domains.

?Because the necessary interventions cut across the portfolios of several government institutions, high-level political support is required to motivate the necessary coordination across sectors,? the report added.

Source: GNA

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