700 million children under five undernourished or overweight, reveals Unicef report – World

A third of the almost 700 million children under the age of five in the world are malnourished or overweight and, as a result, face lifelong health problems, according to a bleak assessment of child nutrition by the United Nations (UN) published on Tuesday.

"If children eat badly, they live poorly," said Henrietta Fore, executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), presenting the first report on the state of the world's children since 1999.

"We are losing ground in the fight for healthy diets." The problems that once existed at opposite ends of the wealth spectrum today have converged in poor and middle-income countries, the report showed.

Despite a nearly 40 percent drop between 1990 and 2015 in stunted growth in poor countries, 149 million children four years of age or younger are still too low for their age, a clinical condition that affects brain development and the body.

Another 50 million are affected by attrition, a chronic and debilitating thinness also born of poverty.

At the same time, half of young people around the world under the age of five do not get essential vitamins and minerals, a long-standing problem that UNICEF has called "hidden hunger."

However, in the last three decades, another form of child malnutrition has emerged throughout the developing world: excess weight.

"This triple burden (malnutrition, lack of crucial micronutrients, obesity) is increasingly in the same country, sometimes in the same neighborhood and often in the same home," Victor Aguayo, head of the nutrition program, told AFP. from UNICEF. .

"An overweight or obese mother may have children with stunted growth or wasting."

In all age groups, more than 800 million people in the world are constantly hungry and another two billion eat too much of the wrong foods, generating epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

"Hidden Hunger"

Among children under five, diet during the first 1,000 days after conception is the basis for physical health and mental development.

And yet, only two out of five babies under six months are exclusively breastfed, as recommended.

Sales of formula based on milk have increased worldwide by 40{7be40b84a6a43fc4fae13304fce9a2695859798abfc41afd127b9f8b21c5f9c5}, and in high middle-income countries such as Brazil, China and Turkey, by almost three quarters.

The lack of vitamins and minerals, meanwhile, can lead to compromised immune systems, poor vision and hearing defects. Lack of iron can cause anemia and reduce the IQ.

"It's hidden & # 39; because you don't notice the impact until it's too late," said Brian Keeley, editor in chief of the report. AFP.

"You don't realize that the boy runs a little slower than the others, he struggles a little in school." However, the increase in obesity is evident.

The problem was virtually non-existent in poor countries 30 years ago, but today at least 10 percent of children under five are overweight or obese in three-quarters of low-income nations.

"There must be a focus on obesity before it is too late," Keeley said.

"Unless you treat it preventively, you will have difficulty solving it later." Cheap and easily available junk food, often marketed directly to children, has made the problem worse.

"Children eat too much of what they don't need: salt, sugar and fat," Keeley added.

Progress in the fight against malnutrition will also be hampered by climate change, the report warned.

Sugary drinks tax

A single Celsius degree of warming since the end of the 19th century has amplified the droughts responsible for more than 80{7be40b84a6a43fc4fae13304fce9a2695859798abfc41afd127b9f8b21c5f9c5} of damages and losses in agriculture.

The average temperature of the Earth's surface will increase by another two or three degrees to 2100.

Meanwhile, research by scientists at Harvard University has shown that the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air is undermining the staple food crops of those essential nutrients and vitamins, including zinc, iron and Vitamin B.

"The impacts of climate change are completely transforming the food that is available and can be consumed," Aguayo said.

Ensuring that every child has access to a healthy diet should become a "political priority" if you want to overcome widespread malnutrition, especially in developing countries, according to the report.

Taxes on sugary foods and beverages; clear labeling on the front of the package; regulate the sale of breast milk substitutes; concluded that limit advertising and sale of & # 39; junk food & # 39; near schools: these and other measures could make a difference.

"The way we understand and respond to malnutrition must change," Fore said.

“It's not just about kids eating enough. It's all about making them eat the right food. ” The recent increase in awareness about the danger of global warming is instructive, the authors said.

"Just as we have organized a movement around climate change, we need to mobilize civil society," Aguayo said.

“If our children are not fed healthy diets, we are putting a big question mark on the future of our societies. "

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1510977/700-million-children-under-five-undernourished-or-overweight-reveals-unicef-report

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