First Lady Fazna Ahmed Calls for Role Models in Nutrition Promotion

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In a significant move to combat malnutrition and promote healthy living, First Lady Fazna Ahmed of the Maldives has called for a united front comprising government bodies, society, and international organizations to foster nutritional awareness and healthy lifestyles among the Maldivian population.

Her call to action was made during the opening of the Roundtable consultation on nutrition and healthy lifestyle at Meerumaa Hall in Male’ City, which marked a pivotal moment in the nation’s health and nutrition advocacy efforts.

The roundtable, a collaborative effort spearheaded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and supported by the Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA), the Ministry of Education, the National Health Protection Agency (NHPA), and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), served as the second national dialogue focusing on the pressing issues of overweight and obesity in children, adolescents, and women.

This gathering of minds aimed to dissect the complex web of factors contributing to malnutrition in the country, with a spotlight on the rising trend of obesity.

The day’s agenda was robust, with discussions aimed at dissecting the multifaceted nature of malnutrition. Participants engaged in identifying and discussing trends, patterns, levels, and drivers of malnutrition in the Maldives.

The introduction of the Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles flagship initiative Kaigen Hingamaa was a highlight, signaling a new era of health promotion. The initiative’s name, which translates to “vigorous life,” encapsulates the government’s renewed commitment to elevating the health status of its citizens.

The roundtable also served as a launchpad for establishing a collective impact platform designed to mobilize champions for nutrition. This platform is envisioned as a catalyst for change, galvanizing action across various sectors of society to create a healthier future for the Maldivian people.

First Lady Fazna, with her rich background in the education sector, brought valuable insights to the discussion. She shared success stories from Thaajudheen School, where she spearheaded three health-centric initiatives.

These included a weekly exercise program for the entire school, a Milk and Exercise Programme for a select group of students over four years, and a sustained campaign encouraging students to make healthier dietary choices. The latter, she proudly noted, is an ongoing effort that instills lifelong healthy habits in students.

But the First Lady’s vision extended beyond physical health. She emphasized the importance of nurturing mental, emotional, and spiritual health, advocating for a holistic approach to well-being. Her message was clear: a well-balanced diet and regular physical activity are essential, but they must be complemented by efforts to support the mental and spiritual dimensions of health.

In a powerful closing statement, First Lady Fazna invoked the wisdom of Pericles, reminding attendees that the true measure of legacy lies not in monuments, but in the positive impact one has on the lives of others. She urged every individual to take at least one action towards better health, highlighting the profound effect such collective actions could have on a global scale.

The Maldives, like many nations, is grappling with the dual burden of malnutrition and obesity. The country’s unique geographical composition, with its dispersed islands, poses distinct challenges for food security and nutrition. Imported foods, changing dietary patterns, and a sedentary lifestyle have contributed to a nutritional crisis that threatens the health of the nation’s children and women.

The government’s response has been multifaceted, involving policy development, public awareness campaigns, and school-based programs. The MFDA has been at the forefront of these efforts, regulating food quality and safety, while the Ministry of Education has integrated nutrition education into the curriculum. NGOs play a critical role in community outreach and education, ensuring that the message of healthy living resonates at the grassroots level.

The roundtable’s outcomes are expected to shape the future of nutrition and health policy in the Maldives. With the establishment of the Kaigen Hingamaa initiative and the collective impact platform, there is a renewed sense of optimism that the tide can be turned against malnutrition and obesity. However, the success of these endeavors hinges on the active participation of the entire Maldivian society, including parents, educators, health professionals, and policymakers.

As the Maldives continues to navigate the challenges of promoting nutrition and healthy living, the role of international partners like UNICEF remains invaluable. Their expertise and support bolster national efforts, providing the technical and financial assistance needed to make significant strides in public health.

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