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UN agriculture agency warns of increasing malnutrition among urban poor

UN agriculture agency warns of increasing malnutrition among urban poor

Most cities in developing countries face the prospect of increased malnutrition and health risks if they do not improve people's access to adequate and safe food, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

"Feeding cities means that more food needs to be produced, moved to cities and distributed within the expanding urban areas," FAO said in a statement issued in Rome. "This in turn means more lorries, greater market congestion, higher piles of garbage, greater risks of food contamination and greater soil, water and air pollution. Many cities are rapidly losing urban and periurban land suitable for food production, have insufficient and inefficient transport, markets and slaughterhouses."

According to FAO, around 50 per cent of the urban population in Africa live in poverty. In Latin America, around 40 per cent of all urban households are poor - the population living below the poverty level in Sao Paulo is estimated to be between 60 and 70 per cent of the total population. In Calcutta, the proportion of urban poor is around 70 per cent, and in Karachi, 45 per cent.

FAO is calling upon governments, city and local authorities and the private sector to improve poor people's access in cities to affordable and safe food.

"They need to improve food supply and distribution systems by adopting appropriate policies and programmes spanning regional, metropolitan, urban and local areas," the FAO statement said. "Access to healthy and nutritious food will be an increasingly important issue in the world's cities as they continue to experience rapid population growth. Improving urban food security is essential for attaining a safer and more stable social climate in developing countries."