Climate change and nutrition, working for common goals

December 2, 2015   World

International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus | Source

Folate DeficiencyBrussels— The Global Nutrition Report 2015 (GNR) that emphasizes the relationship between climate change and nutrition and the pivotal role business can play, is presented in Paris during the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21).

Those days, from 30 November to 11 December, world leaders meet in Paris at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) to reach a new agreement on international climate change. This is an excellent occasion to promote the GNR and highlight the strong link between nutrition security and climate change.

 

Since 1991 it is known that folate deficiency is associated with the risk of Neural Tube Defects such as Spina Bifida. Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is needed for the production and maintenance of new cells.

Since many countries introduced mandatory folic acid food fortification programmes, the prevalence of folate deficiency has decreased, reducing cases of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) in those countries by up to 70%. However, people with malnutrition are still at high risk of folate deficiency.

Globally, 84 countries have legislation to mandate fortification of at least one industrially milled cereal grain. Mandatory fortification with folic acid will contribute to adequate folate levels for all women of reproductive age. . WHO recommends that women consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day during the two months prior to conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy to help reduce the risk of a baby developing a birth defect. Higher amounts of folic acid also can help reduce the recurrence of NTDs.

In this direction, IF is working to raise national and international awareness of the importance of Folic Acid as primary means of protection against NTDs. In 2011, IF and Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals launched the joint report "Act against Europe's most common birth defects: one year on - Defining Neural Tube Defect prevention strategies in Europe" to provide a horizontal overview of the policies that could contribute to increased NTD prevention in the EU and Norway.

Today and tomorrow, GNR activities are taking place in Paris. On Wednesday 2 December, Rachel Nugent from the Independent Expert Group will be moderating a panel discussion at “Climate and nutrition: the mutual games of achieving food and nutrition security and tackling climate change,” an event organized by ACF and Generation Nutrition. Like climate change, every country in the world is affected by malnutrition. But the relationship between climate and nutrition goes beyond similarities. In fact the quest for improved global nutrition might be one of the great opportunities for actions to slow down climate change. Diet choices have huge implications for greenhouse gas emissions. The session explores the potential for actions that can do a double duty: improve nutrition and reduce climate emissions.

The following day, Yves Martin-Prével, independent Expert Group member, will present “Nutrition and food security in a warming world: Outlook and opportunities for Africa based on learning from the Global Nutrition Report” at an event organized by Cornell, IFPRI, IRD, and UNDP: “Climate Change, Agroecology, Nutrition, and Food Security: Critical lessons from project interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa”. On this occasion, the session examines how the nutrition of babies, children and adults is extremely sensitive to seasonal fluctuations in food availability and infection loads. Climate change will shift and sometimes exacerbate seasonal fluctuations. Nutrition strategies need to ready themselves for these changes and become much more climate proof than they currently are.

The COP21 is a unique opportunity for our governments to set up a path to end malnutrition and to stabilize the climate.