Sri Lanka has one of the highest rates of acute malnutrition in children under five years of age and is among the top 10 worst countries in the world with acute malnutrition, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said.
In a statement issued over the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SUN BN) programme, the WFP yesterday said these rates have remained largely unchanged over the last decade.
“Further, over-nutrition is rapidly emerging, with 45% of women of reproductive age overweight or obese. Poor nutrition also is linked to the country’s high incidence of non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases and diabetes – cause of more than three-quarters of all deaths,” it said.
It said Sri Lanka’s universal health care and free education policies over the last few decades continue to help the country go forward. “However, Sri Lanka’s poor nutrition status remains an issue and continues to impact the country’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 2 – Zero Hunger,” the WFP said .
The SUN BN, led by the WFP yesterday brought together thirty leading Sri Lankan businesses to pledge their support for three important agendas: improving workplace health and nutrition efforts; producing healthy food; and promoting healthy food consumption.
Expanding on the role of the SUN BN, Brenda Barton, WFP Representative in Sri Lanka said WFP is happy to facilitate this platform for businesses in Sri Lanka.
“The network connects the private sector, governments, civil society, the United Nations, and academia in a collective effort to improve nutrition in Sri Lanka. Convening, assessing and advocating for nutrition is more important than ever before with the country facing a nutritional ‘double burden’ — under nutrition rates unchanged for over a decade in addition to soaring rates of overweight and obesity,” she said.
Shanelle de Almeida, Group Wellness Manager of Hemas Holdings PLC and the leader of the workplace health and nutrition work group said the SUN BN is a great initiative to bring together like-minded organisations and people who are passionate about creating a healthy food culture in our community. “The network provides a communication bridge for positive change,”she said.
The Private Sector organisations engaged with the Sun Business Network are : AIA Insurance Lanka Plc, Aitken Spence, Brandix, Dentsu Grant, Dialog, Hemas Holdings PLC, HSBC, London Stock Exchange Group, Mas Capital Ltd, MAS Holdings, MasterCard, Richard Pieris (Arpico) Maskeliya plantation, Standard Chartered Bank, Virtusa (Pvt) Ltd, Adamjee Marketing, Calorie Counter, Cargills Ceylon Limited, CIC Holdings PLC, CSR Sri Lanka, Dialog, Federation of Chamber of Commerce, Jetwing Hotels, John Keells Holdings PLC, Prima Group, SLFPA, Matale District of Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Cargills (Ceylon) PLC, CoCo Green (Pvt. Ltd), Dilmah, Hayleys PLC, Saaraketha Holdings, SCAN, Unilever, Shangri –La, Ceylon Biscuits Ltd, South Asia Gateway Terminals (Pvt) Ltd.
The SUN Business Network is supported by donations to WFP from Japanese private sector associations.