World

UN: 1 in 3 kids undernourished or overweight

PARIS: A third of the world's nearly 700 million children under five years old are undernourished or overweight and face lifelong health problems as a consequence, according to a grim UN assessment released yesterday.

"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.

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

Problems that once existed at opposite ends of the wealth spectrum have today converged in poor and middle-income countries.

Despite a nearly 40 per cent drop of stunting in poor countries from 1990 to 2015, 149 million children four or younger are today still too short for their age, a clinical condition that impairs development.

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

At the same time, half of youngsters across the globe under five are not getting essential vitamins and minerals, a long-standing problem Unicef has dubbed "hidden hunger".

TRIPLE BURDEN

Over the last three decades, however, another form of child malnutrition has surged across the developing world: excess weight.

"This triple burden - undernutrition, a lack of crucial micronutrients, obesity - is increasingly found in the same country, sometimes in the same neighbourhood, and often in the same household," Mr Victor Aguayo, head of Unicef's nutrition programme, told AFP.

"A mother who is overweight or obese can have children who are stunted or wasted."

Across all age groups, more than 800 million people in the world are constantly hungry and another two billion are eating too much of the wrong food, driving epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Making sure every child has access to a healthy diet must become a "political priority" if widespread malnutrition is to be conquered, especially in developing countries, the report said. - AFP

MEDICAL & HEALTH