Turning the tide of malnutrition. Responding to the challenge of the 21st century.
Let us begin with an unequivocal assertion: proper nutrition and health are fundamental human rights. What does this mean? What are the primary links between nutrition and health seen from a human-rights perspective? Firstly, nutrition is a cornerstone that affects and defines the health of all people, rich and poor. It paves the way for us to grow, develop, work, play, resist infection and aspire to realization of our fullest potential as individuals and societies. Conversely, malnutrition makes us all more vulnerable to disease and premature death. Secondly, poverty is a major cause and consequence of ill-health worldwide. Poverty, hunger and malnutrition stalk one another in a vicious circle, compromising health and wreaking havoc on the socioeconomic development of whole countries, entire continents. Nearly 30% of humanity, especially those in developing countries – infants, children, adolescents, adults, and older persons – bear this triple burden. This is a travesty of justice, an abrogation of the most basic human rights. Thirdly, a strong human rights approach is needed to bring on board the millions of people left behind in the 20th century’s health revolution. We must ensure that our values and our vision are anchored in human rights law – only then can they become reality for all people. Ultimately, health and sustainable human development are equity issues. In our globalized 21st century, equity must begin at the bottom, hand in hand with healthy nutrition. Putting first things first, we must also realize that resources allocated to preventing and eliminating disease will be effective only if the underlying causes of malnutrition – and their consequences – are successfully addressed. This is the “gold standard”: nutrition, health and human rights. It makes for both good science and good sense, economically and ethically. Joined in partnership, we have the means to achieve it. (excerpt)