Mountain People Suffer More Malnutrition, Disease
By Anne Nabakwe
Posted June 20, 2002
Despite hosting more biodiversity than any other region on earth, mountain region populations were the most affected by hunger and malnutrition according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s director general Jacques Diouf.
Diouf made the remarks in a statement delivered on his behalf by FAO assistant director general for sustainable development Jacques Eckebil during the five day International conference on sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountain regions, which opened in Adelboden, Switzerland on Sunday.
The conference has brought together 200 participants representing some 60-mountain region governments, Inter-governmental Organizations, business, industry, farmer organizations, indigenous people, workers, trade unions and NGO’s.
Other stakeholders attending the conference include research and scientific communities as well as women’s organizations and youth drawn from various countries.
Diouf expressed concern that climate change, pollution and degradation of the mountain region environment were some of the serious threats posed to the mountain areas leading to increased food insecurity.
Consequently, diseases such as Vitamin A deficiency were the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, which raised the risk of diseases and death from severe infections.
The FAO chief also cited the high levels of malnutrition and hunger as resulting from the inaccessibility, complexity and fragility of mountain environments, and the extent to which mountain people are often marginalized.
As a lead agency in charge of coordinating the UN 2002 international year of mountains, FAO therefore challenged participants to come up with concrete proposals on solutions to problems affecting mountain region environment that would later be presented to the UN World Food Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa at the end of August this year.
The opportunity to address mountain issues evolved from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, where mountains became the singular focus of Chapter 13 of Agenda 21, the blueprint for sustainable development.
It is expected that the Adelboden conference will help set the stage for policies and laws meant to protect mountain ecosystems and to create the conditions in which mountain people can thrive.