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HEALTH

Rome hosts UN meeting on malnutrition

Political leaders from around the world gathered in Rome on Wednesday for a three-day UN conference on malnutrition aimed at tackling a global scourge which afflicts poor and rich alike.

Rome hosts UN meeting on malnutrition
The UN conference on malnutrition is organized by the UN food agency in Rome (pictured) and the World Health Organization. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Representatives from 190 countries were expected to attend the Second International Conference on Nutrition (CIN2), organised by the UN's food agency (Fao) and World Health Organization (WHO) and boasting appearances from leaders including Pope Francis.

"We are registering unacceptably high and persistent levels of malnutrition in the world," Leslie Amoroso, a Fao nutrition expert, told journalists ahead of the conference, which will draw together over 100 health and agriculture ministers.

"The human costs of malnutrition are very high: 805 million people are undernourished and 161 million children have delayed growth," she said, adding that it was "a global problem which demands coordinated action from numerous sectors."

A lot of progress has been made already, with the number of undernourished people in the world dropping by over half in the past two decades, from one billion people in 1992 when the first conference (CIN1) was held, to 805 million in 2014.

But malnutrition is not just about hunger: two billion people suffer from deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamin A, iron and zinc – a condition known as "hidden hunger" by experts – while 42 million children and 500 million adults are overweight or obese.

As poor nutrition "acts like a brake on development," investing in healthy food is proven to "improve productivity and economic growth, reduce health insurance costs and foster education and intellectual capacity," Amoroso said.

Royalty, philanthropists, the Pope

Star guests at the conference will include Queen Letizia of Spain, King of Lesotho Letsie III, philanthropist Melinda Gates and economist Jeffrey Sachs, as well as Pope Francis, a fervent campaigner against hunger who is expected to give a speech on Thursday.

Delegates will adopt a "Rome Declaration on Nutrition" and "Framework for Action", which Fao said were based on a consensus reached by over 200 national governments after consultations with civil society organizations and the private sector.

The declaration focuses not only on access to healthy food but also the growing problem of inactive over-eaters, finding that "dietary risk factors, together with inadequate physical activity, account for almost 10 percent of the global burden of disease and disability."

It stresses that "food should not be used as an instrument for political or economic pressure," and that food price volatility can have a knock-on effect on food security and nutrition and therefore "needs to be better monitored and addressed for the challenges it poses."

The action framework presents 60 recommendations, including developing and implementing national plans and policies to better nutrition, as well as upping related investments.

It stresses the need for universal health coverage, because "for health systems to be able to deliver improvements in nutrition, it is essential that there is access to health services for all, including the most marginalized and most vulnerable."

It also urges governments to ensure universal access to safe drinking water and protect children from infections, such as diarrhoea, malaria and intestinal worms.

The framework said it backed commitments made by the WHO to reduce deaths from NCDs – diet related non-communicable diseases – by 25 percent by 2025, as well as reducing salt intake by 30 percent and halting the increase in obesity prevalence in adolescents and adults.

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FOOD & DRINK

Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

If you're visiting Italy in autumn, don't miss the many local food and drinks fairs held around the country. Here are some to visit this October.

Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

One of the best things about visiting Italy in the autumn is having the opportunity to attend a sagra, a type of harvest festival or fair centred around one particular food or drink item local to the town hosting it.

sagra has a fairly broad definition: it could last for several weeks or one day, and might consist of anything from a raucous celebration with music and dancing to a lone food stall with a few wooden benches. It will usually be hosted in a field or a piazza, and entry is free.

READ ALSO: Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy

What all sagre have in common is the focus on eating and drinking fresh local produce, and the assurance that you won’t leave unsated.

Now, the good news is that October is by far the month with the most sagre, with a wealth of events taking place throughout the country that are worth seeking out if you’re in the area. So, here are some of the best sagre happening across Italy this month.

Campania 

Sagra della Castagna (chestnut festival), 7th-16th October in Calvanico, Salerno.  

Festa della Mela Annurca (‘annurca‘ apple festival), 28th-29th October in Valle di Maddaloni, Caserta.

Sagra del Cinghiale (boar festival), every Friday of the month in Dugenta, Benevento.

Emilia Romagna

Sagra della Salamina da Sugo (salami festival), 5th-9th October in Poggio Renatico, Ferrara.

Sagra del Vino Romagnolo (Romagna’s wine festival), 6th-9th October in Cotignola, Ravenna.

Sagra del Tartufo (truffle festival), 7th-9th October in Bondeno, Ferrara.

Sagra dell’Anguilla (eel festival), first three weekends of the month in Comacchio, Ferrara.

Lazio

Sagra dell’Uva Cesanese del Piglio (‘Cesanese‘ grapes festival), 30th September-2nd October in Piglio, Frosinone.

Enorvinio (wine festival), 2nd October in Orvinio, Rieti.

Castelli di Cioccolato (chocolate castles festival), 7th-9th October, Marino, Rome.

Sagra delle Tacchie ai Funghi Porcini (‘tacchie‘ pasta and porcini mushroom festival), first two weekends of the month in Bellegra, Rome.

A street seller prepares roasted chestnuts in Rome.

Roasted chestnuts are a staple of Italy’s October ‘sagre’. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Lombardy

Castagnata a Caglio (chestnut festival), 2nd-9th October in Caglio, Como.

Festival della Mostarda (mustard festival), 15th October-30th November in Cremona.

Fasulin de l’Oc con le Cudeghe (beans and pork rind festival), 29th-31st October in Pizzighettone, Cremona.

Sicily

Sagra delle Pesche (peach festival), 1st-2nd October in Leonforte, Enna.

Festa della Nocciola (hazelnut festival), 5th-6th October in Novara di Sicilia, Messina.

Funghi Fest (Mushroom festival), 21st-23rd October in Castelbuono, Palermo.

Piedmont

Sagra della Castagna (chestnut festival), 2nd October in Mathi, Turin.

Sagra del Ciapinabò (Jerusalem artichoke festival), 8th-9th October in Carignano, Turin.

Cioccolato nel Monferrato (chocolate festival), 16th October in Altavilla Monferrato, Alessandria.

Chocolate fair in Milan, Italy.

A number of chocolate festivals take place up and down the boot in October. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Tuscany

Sagra del Fungo Amiatino (‘amiatino‘ mushroom festival), 7th-9th, 15th-16th October in Bagnolo, Grosseto.

Sagra delle Frugiate (roasted chestnuts festivals), 9th and 16th October in Pescia, Pistoia.

Boccaccesca (local food festival), 14th-16th October in Certaldo, Florence.

Sagra del Tordo (local food festival), 29th-30th October in Montalcino, Siena.

Puglia

Sagra del Calzone (calzone festival), 14th-16th October in Acquaviva delle Fonti, Bari.

Veneto

Festa del Baccalà (cod festival), 30th September-2nd October and 7th-9th October in Montegalda, Vicenza.

Festa delle Giuggiole (jujubes festival), 2nd and 9th October in Arquà Petrarca, Padua.

Mele a Mel (apple festival), 7th-9th October in Mel, Belluno.

Festa della Patata (potato festival), all Sundays of the month in Tonezza del Cimone, Vicenza.

Umbria

Primi d’Italia (national first courses festival), 29th September-2nd October in Foligno.

Sagra del Sedano Nero e della Salsiccia (black celery and sausage festival), 15th-16th October in Trevi, Perugia.

This list is not exhaustive. Did we miss out your favourite October sagra? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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