UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that around one-third of children under two years of age are malnourished. The report also warned that the COVID-19 pandemic can worsen this situation even more.
“Children under the age of two are not getting adequate food or nutrients they need to thrive and grow well, leading to irreversible developmental harm,” UNICEF reported.
The report titled ”Fed to Fail? The Crisis of Children’s Diets in Early Life’ was released by UNICEF ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit this week.
UNICEF conducted a study and found that about one in three young children in Australia, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Serbia, and Sudan are fed at least one processed food or drink daily.
The report warned that rising poverty, inequality, conflict, climate-related disasters, and health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are contributing to an ongoing nutrition crisis.
“Our discussions with mothers found that about one in three young children in Australia, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Serbia, and Sudan were fed at least one processed or ultra-processed food or drink daily,” the report said.
The report said these products are highly available, cheap, and convenient, and some are marketed with misleading nutrition claims.
“We asked mothers and nutrition specialists in 18 countries how decisions are made on what to feed young children. We found that mothers in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and India experience powerful social norms that exclude them from food-purchase decisions,” the report stated.
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“Poor nutritional intake in the first two years of life can irreversibly harm children’s rapidly growing bodies and brains, impacting their schooling, job prospects, and futures. While we have known this for years, there has been little progress on providing the right kind of nutritious and safe foods for the young. The ongoing COVID-19 disruptions could make the situation much worse,” the official noted.
In an analysis of 91 countries, the report found that only half of the children aged 6-23 months are being fed the minimum recommended number of meals a day.
As COVID-19 continues to disrupt essential services and drives more families into poverty, the report found that the pandemic is also affecting how families feed their children.
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