UN: UNICEF says most children receive inadequate nutrition

New York, US (PANA) - Five out of six children worldwide under two years old are not receiving adequate nutrition for growth and brain development, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a new report issued Friday.

The report noted that childhood nutrition during the first two years of life is critical to development and survival, and though there has been a reduction in chronic malnutrition over the past 10 years, stunting continues to affect 156 million children under the age of 5, while at the other end of the spectrum, 42 million children are overweight or obese – an 11 million increase from 2000.

In all countries, rich and poor, breastfeeding gives children the best start and can save lives, yet too few children benefit.

The report, titled: "From the First Hour of Life global mapping of infant and child feeding practices" focused on breastfeeding and recommended that children be introduced to solid, semi-solid and soft foods at the age of six months, but has found that many are introduced to these foods too early or late, creating an adverse effect on health and development.

It urged mothers to breastfeed children until the age of two or older, in addition to complementary foods.

"Infants and young children have the greatest nutrient needs than at any other time in life. But the bodies and brains of millions of young children do not reach their full potential because they are receiving too little food, too late," said France Begin, Senior Nutrition Adviser at UNICEF in a statement on the report. "Poor nutrition at such a young age causes irreversible mental and physical damage."

Though critical to safeguarding against death, she noted that fewer than half of all newborns breastfeed within the first hour of life, only half of children aged 6 to 23 months are fed the minimum number of meals per day for their age, and in both rich and poor countries, long periods of breastfeeding correlate with higher intelligence scores.

Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of obesity and chronic disease later in life, and mothers who breastfeed are at a lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Scaling up to universal levels, breastfeeding could save more than 800,000 children and add more than US$300 billion to the global economy each year.

"Introducing fruits and vegetables in later infancy is predictive of consumption later on, and only half of children aged six to 11 months receive any foods from animal sources, which are essential to provide zinc and iron.

"However, families alone cannot provide children with nutritious foods.This also requires government investments in complementary feeding policies and programmes that prioritize early nutrition as well as contributions from communities and the private sector.

"In order to provide nutritious and affordable foods to the poorest children in the world, governments and the private sector will need to engage in stronger and more targeted investments.These could include cash or in-kind transfers to vulnerable families, crop diversification programmes, and fortifying foods that are critical to improving nutrition in young children," she added.

Stating 16 October is World Food Day that provides an opportunity to raise awareness about under-nutrition, UNICEF encouraged societies and all actors to end hunger.
-0-  PANA  AA/AR  14Oct2016

14 أكتوبر 2016 18:36:34




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