Nutrition and Climate Change: Making the Connection to Enhance Livelihood Resilience, Health and Women’s Empowerment

by Cristina Tirado

Event hosted at the African Pavilion, Durban, COP17. This event was co-organized by Public Health Institute, the World Food Programme, UN Standing Committee on Nutrition and Action Against Hunger with the support of the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank

Why nutrition and health?

Climate change has an impact on the nutrition security and health of millions of people, particularly poor women and children. The current crisis in the Horn of Africa and famine in Somalia is the result of one of the most severe droughts in 60 years and this can get worse since extreme weather events are getting more frequent and intense as a result of climate change.

Protection and promotion of nutrition security and health are essential components of climate-resilient and sustainable development. Despite this, nutrition has been largely absent in the climate agenda. In fact this is the only event among more than 200 events at the COP17 that focuses on nutrition.

Why we organized this event?

What prompt us to bring this multi-sectorial group together today was a discussion with delegates from the African group at the end of the COP16, where they expressed their concern that multilateral and bilateral agencies and international organizations were addressing key issues related to nutrition, health and agriculture in a vertical way lacking integration at the national and community level. In fact, the issues of climate change adaptation, global health, women’s empowerment, nutrition and food security continue to be addressed in siloed approaches.

With this event we aim to address nutrition under a changing climate by connecting the dots with resilient livelihoods, health, and women’s empowerment in order to act in a coordinated and integrated manner.

Why is women’s empowerment important?

Women serve as agents of change through their unique roles in the family and child care, agriculture, food and nutrition security, health and disaster risk reduction and they can be instrumental in addressing climate change, health and nutrition in an integrated way.

However women are poorly represented in consultation and decision-making processes for the development of climate change adaptation –at the local, the national and the global levels.  Last year at COP 16 women accounted for just 30% of all delegation parties and less than 15% of all heads of delegations.

Recognizing all of this, we developed a report,“Enhancing women’s leadership to address the challenges of climate change on nutrition security and health,” which served as background for our discussion at this event. The paper:

1) Promotes women’s engagement and leadership in adaptation planning and climate decision-making to ensure that these are gender, nutrition and health sensitive.

2) Identifies different strategies for addressing, with a gender perspective, the challenges of climate change for nutrition security and health

These strategies need an inter-sectoral approach. In this event we had an excellent multidisciplinary group of speakers who contributed to meet the objectives of this event of illustrating why nutrition and health represent a key pillars of climate-resilient development, and of presenting complementary strategies to address food and nutrition security, health, social protection and women’s empowerment  in an integrated way.


The event Nutrition and Climate Change: Making the Connection to Enhance Livelihood Resilience, Health and Women’s Empowerment was a success. We were very pleased with the collaborative effort, contributions of the panellist, inspiring messages and lively discussion. As a follow up it has been recommended to organize a workshop to bring together experts on the different areas related to climate change, nutrition security, health, gender and human rights, and we will keep bringing together key organization and groups and to contribute to this inter-sectoral effort.

We concluded that, by working together across sectors promoting the co-benefits to nutrition security of climate resilient sustainable development and of empowering women to participate in climate policy decisions, we can create a climate for nutrition security, health, and gender equity.

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