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The international community must act now to deliver nutritious food to the billion people that are undernourished, says an editorial in The Lancet, as governments prepare for the World Summit on Food Security later this month.

The world currently produces enough food to feed everyone. But inequitable food distribution means that one sixth of the world's population — mostly in Africa and Asia — remain undernourished.

The editorial argues that the problem arises partly because food distribution is complex, involving economics, trade, agriculture and climate change.

And the economic crisis has not helped —
food costs remain high, donor funds for food aid are at a record low, and few countries have food safety nets in place.

Poor terminology adds to the problem — calling undernourished people 'hungry' is belittling. Even the term 'undernourished' can be confusing to policymakers, says the editorial.

Using a description based on the body mass index (BMI) might better draw international attention. The editorial suggests setting a BMI of 16–18.5 as the international standard for undernutrition.

It adds that medicalising food — where undernutrition is the disease and food the treatment — could make ensuring food supplies a bigger priority for the global health sector.

Given the unpredictable effects of climate change on global food production, it should also be in rich nations' interest to immediately provide resources to create sustainable food delivery systems and reliable supply chains.

Link to full article in The Lancet*

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