A mother feeds her child in Mbandza, Republic of Congo where chronic malnutrition affects about one-third of the children. (© UNICEF/UNI212618/Tremeau)
The humanitarian organization, UNICEF, says an alarmingly high number of children around the world are suffering the consequences of poor diets and a food system that is failing them. A new report suggests that 149 million children are too short for their age, 50 million are too thin for their height, one in two suffer from deficiencies in essential vitamins and nutrients, and 40 million children are overweight or obese.
UNICEF argues that as children grow older they are exposed to unhealthy food largely because of inappropriate marketing , the abundance of ultra-processed food and increasing access to fast food and and very sweet drinks. As a result, overweight and obesity is increasing dramatically.
Marketing makes children want to eat unhealthy, fast food
The greatest problem of malnutrition exists in the poorest and most marginalized communities. And the report notes that “climate-related disasters cause severe food crises.
UNICEF is calling for action from governments, the private sector, donors, parents, families and businesses to empower people to demand nutritious food and reduce demand for unhealthy foods. It wants food suppliers to incentivize the provision of healthy, convenient and affordable foods.
UNICEF calls for accurate and east-to-understand labelling and stronger controls on the marketing of unhealthy foods and it calls for the collection and study of data and evidence to help guide action and track progress.