Editorial: A real head-scratcher

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At water-coolers and in break rooms all around St. John’s, in boardrooms and supermarkets, in offices and on street corners, the shocking Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report was the talk of the town. Could it be true? Are we in the same league with Haiti when it comes to under-nourishment? And, pray tell, what data did the FAO use?
When was this study undertaken? And what government agencies provided the medical and other raw statistics?
These perplexing questions inhabited our conversations for most of yesterday. As well they should have. After all, we are now on the lower threshold of the high income classification by the World Bank, this based on its calculation of our GNI (gross national Income) per capita.  A country with a GNI per capita of U.S.$1,025 or less is considered a low income country. Thank God that we are not in that category! And kudos to the stewards of our economy who have done a decent job in ensuring that the rising tide of prosperity ‘floats all boats.’ Never mind the fact that, based on the data released by the Citizenship by Investment Unit, the selling of our patrimony is the   life raft that’s paying many of our bills keeping the rest of the country afloat. But that’s an Op-Ed piece for another day.
‘The fly in the ointment,’ if we can use that term, as regards our new and higher income classification by the World Bank is that we are no longer eligible for loans on concessionary terms. Seems we lose, even when we win, in a perverse sort of way! Of course, with the country’s grand vision of itself as an “Economic Powerhouse,” and the robust school lunch programme, one wonders how, in the name of all that is good, the FAO managed to arrive at those damning, and we might add, discouraging undernourishment statistics. Just when we thought that we were on the way to ‘Wellville,’ seems something dastardly happened. And we deserve an explanation.
And that is why we are calling on the authorities to delve into the report and parse the numbers for us in layman’s terms. This is why we are calling on the food and nutrition experts in the Ministry of Health to look at the report and see if there is any merit to it, and if there is, to come up with the panacea for this curse. And yes, a word with Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director, Carissa Etienne, might be in order. After all, Etienne was the official who declared that, “It’s easy to find homes [in Antigua and Barbuda] with one child suffering malnutrition and an overweight mother, or a child with both malnutrition and overweight, plus a vitamin and mineral deficiency.” Ouch! Not that we are excoriating the messenger simply because we do not like the message. Rather, it is that we are searching for answers to those head-scratching questions.
And solutions! When all is said and done, if the FAO/PAHO is correct, then something needs to be
done as a matter of urgency as regards our dietary habits and nutritional needs. Undernourishment and obesity are ills that can lead to a whole host of serious health problems, and eternal vigilance is paramount! We owe it to ourselves and to each other.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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