Poor diets damaging children’s health

Henrietta Strickland
October 17, 2019

One in every three Vietnamese children under the age of five is either malnourished or overweight as a result of poor diets and a food system that is failing them, heard a ceremony in Hanoi on October 16 to release the UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2019 report. "As the children grow older, their exposure to unhealthy food becomes alarming, driven largely by inappropriate marketing and advertising, the abundance of ultra-processed foods in cities but also in remote areas, and increasing access to fast food and highly sweetened beverages".

"If children eat poorly, they live poorly", said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore, unveiling the Fund's first State of the World's Children report since 1999.

"149 million children are stunted, or too short for their age, including 13.1 million children in Nigeria; 50 million children are wasted, or too thin for their height, including 2.9 million children in Nigeria".

"It is not just about getting children enough to eat, it's all about getting them the right food to eat".

The UNICEF reported that that "Filipino children are increasingly suffering from poor diets and inadequate nutrition".

According to the report, from 2000 to 2016, the proportion of overweight children aged from 5 to 19 rose from 1 in 10 to nearly 1 in 5.

A third of the world's almost 700 million children under five years old are undernourished or overweight and face lifelong health problems as a outcome, according to a grim United Nations assessment of childhood nutrition released on Tuesday.

"As children, they don't know what food to ask, but depend on adults and their caregivers to know what food they need to grow healthily and avoid preventable, non-communicable diseases in the future such as diabetes and hypertension", Calibo said. "That is our common challenge today", she urged.

UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyun Dendevnorov said that the "triple burden of under nutrition, hidden hunger, and overweight poses serious threats to child health". Globally, 44% of children aged six to 23 months are not fed fruit or vegetables, and 59% don't eat eggs, dairy, fish or meat, Unicef said. Though breastfeeding is shown to be lifesaving, only 42 percent of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed, with a growing reliance on infant formula, according to the report.

The greatest burden of malnutrition in all its forms is shouldered by children and adolescents from the poorest and most marginalized communities, the report notes.

The report also noted that climate related disasters caused severe food crisis.

UNICEF said that addressing malnutrition would require stakeholders investing more resources in interventions aimed at preventing malnutrition among young children and supporting treatment when prevention fails.

Empowering families, children and young people to demand nutritious food, including by improving nutrition education and using proven legislation - such as sugar taxes - to reduce demand for unhealthy foods.

- Incentivizing food suppliers to provide healthy, convenient and affordable foods.

- Collecting, analyzing and utilizing high-quality data and evidence to support action and monitor progress.

"We are losing ground in the fight for healthy diets".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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