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Healthy Diet for Healthy Life

Alleviating and eradicating poverty, improving the living standard of people, ensuring food security and societal well-being have been among the top priorities in developing countries such as Eritrea.

The country has been working with local and international partners to achieve a far-sighted vision of ensuring food security and also providing equal and sustainable access to nutritional food to all. While ensuring food security and preventing desertification have been a global concern for decades, this outlook has recently been changed to the provision of healthy diet for all.  World Food Day (WFD), 16 October, and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, October 17 were jointly commemorated in Eritrea in an event held in Embaderho on October 16.

The problem of malnutrition is no more a challenge for developing countries but developed countries have been riddled with health problems emanating from dietary imbalances. Hence, the issue of nutrition is steadily getting prominence. That is why this year’s World Food Day was commemorated under the theme “Healthy Diets for a Zero Hanger World.”

A welcoming address was given by Mr. Amanuel Negassi, Advisor to the Agriculture Minister and Chairperson of WFD Organizing Committee. He spoke about the efforts being made to ensure nutritional security in general such as grains and dairy products as well as expansion of aquaculture in rural areas of the country so as to meet the envisaged goal adding fish to the dietary package.

Mr. Arefayne Berhe, Minister of Agriculture, said in this his key note address that the issue of nutrition has not gained the attention it deserves but is rather termed as food security and nutrition instead of food and nutrition security. He also disclosed to the participants of the event that Eritrea is working very closely with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on this subject at a national and regional level.

Eritrea fully understands the benefit of healthy diet. According to Minister Arefayne, the country has, at least since 2013, termed its objective as achieving food and nutrition security. To that end, a clear strategy to implement this on the ground, Minimum Integrated Household Agricultural Package (MIHAP) is being exercised at a smallholder level with the objective of providing nutritious food to the respective family and four others.

Mr. Afrefayne further noted that the nutritional package being included in MIHAP includes cereals, vegetables and fruits, milk, eggs, meat and honey. Recently in collaboration with the Ministry of Marine Resources, fresh water fish are also being added to the diet. Apart from this, the Ministries of Health, Marine Resources, Trade and Industry, Agriculture and the Standards Institution are working hand in hand to address the issue of nutrition with particular focus on children under the age of 5.

The minister also disclosed that the country has developed another strategy for the small and medium commercial farmers to go from mono cropping to integrated agriculture involving crops and livestock so they too can get for themselves and the market the required nutritious food.

“Producing nutritious food is one thing but preparing nutritious meal is a different ball-game. This is the subject that we are working very closely with the FAO thanks to the active engagement of the FAO Eritrea Representative and his team. We hope we can make a dent on this important issue as soon as possible to achieve a Zero Hunger before the dead line of 2030,” Mr. Arefayne added.

Provision of healthy diet to all is the primary global objective. Poverty has its tall on poor health. That is why poverty eradication has become a global concern.  This year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was commemorated under the theme “Acting Together to Empower Children, their Families and Communities to end Poverty.”

Ms. Susan Namondi Nugongi, UN Resident Coordinator in Eritrea, speaks of the close association between poverty and poor health and the various factors that contribute to multidimensional poverty that encompasses health, inadequate living standards, disempowerment, and poor quality of areas that are environmentally hazardous, among others.

Ms. Susan also commends the Government of Eritrea for the progress it has made in the attainment of some of the Millennium Development Goals concerning children.

Ms. Susan underlined that both enhancing food security and eradication of poverty are prioritized by the Government of Eritrea with the Government already investing significantly in agriculture which employs the majority of Eritreans. She further applauded the Government of Eritrea for  the construction  of dams and ponds and the support for livelihood, prioritization of roads infrastructure that linked Eritrea regionally and with no doubt boosts not just food security but also business and trade activities in general.

The jointly commemorated events stressed the urgent need for healthy diets in both the developed and developing countries. Alleviation of poverty plays a significant role towards achieving nutrition security. Mr. Saeed A. Bancie, FAO representative in Eritrea, reiterated that achieving Zero Hunger is not only about addressing hunger, but also nourishing people.  This year’s World Food Day calls for action across sectors to make healthy sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone.

In the event farmers and dairy products processing associations showcased various farm products that include dairy, honey, fruits, poultry and vegetable among other produces. Meanwhile, the farmers displaying their products received certificates of appreciation and participation.

A poem by Mr. Daniel Kahsay, he is also a farmer, featured the importance of indigenous vegetables, fruits, and various food types in nourishing people as well as the value of organic food that are typical in the rural areas  of the county. Our forefathers have been nourishing themselves with indigenous yet diet rich varieties of food, is the general message of the poem.

Banana in various recipes such as in bread form and chips, dumpling and the way it is prepared were unique displays.

The event was also featured life painting activity that reflects the importance of environmental protection in creating a healthier world.   A message from a young Minister of Children also emphasized the need for proper care of children particularly through providing them with healthy diets.

A video show presented in the event highlighted the major activities being carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture which is documented in “Small and Medium Commercial Farmers Strategy” covering  the efforts being made in Transforming from Surface/ Furrow Irrigation to Pressurized Irrigation, Promoting Agricultural Mechanization, Development of Markets and Trade Infrastructures among others.

Following the display of agricultural produce, the joint events of WFD and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty were concluded with Traditional Eritrean Coffee Ceremony and some other treats.

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