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Young Children’s Diets Show No Improvement In Last Decade, Could Get Worse’ Under Covid: UNICEF

During crucial period when children begin to transition to solid foods, just 1 in 3 are fed a diet diverse enough to grow well, finds UNICEF

Young Children's Diets Show No Improvement In Last Decade, Could Get Worse' Under Covid: UNICEF
Highlights
  • Poor nutrition in first 2 years of life can irreversibly harm kids: UNICEF
  • COVID-19 disruptions could make the situation much worse: UNICEF
  • Children carry the scars of poor diets, feeding practices for life: UNICEF

New Delhi: 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, according to a new UNICEF report which warned that COVID-19 pandemic could worsen the situation. The report titled ‘Fed to Fail? The Crisis of Children’s Diets in Early Life’ was released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit this week.

Also Read: Diversity In Diets For Better Nutrition: A Policy Perspective

The study was conducted after discussions with mothers and it was found that about one in three young children in Australia, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Serbia and Sudan are fed at least one processed or ultra-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 among the world’s youngest that has shown little sign of improvement in the last 10 years.

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 assertion was made by the mothers during a focussed group discussion, it said. The report said these products are highly available, cheap and convenient, and some are marketed with misleading nutrition claims because legislation to prevent inappropriate marketing is missing, inadequate or poorly implemented. It was also found that Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India experience powerful social norms that exclude them from food-purchase decisions.

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.

Also Read: COVID-19 Has Caused One Of The Biggest Increases In World Hunger, Malnutrition In Decades: United Nations

UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said that the report’s findings are clear: When the stakes are highest, millions of young children are being fed to fail. 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. In fact, 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 children aged 6-23 months are being fed the minimum recommended number of meals a day, while just a third consume the minimum number of food groups they need to thrive. Further analysis of 50 countries with available trend data revealed these poor feeding patterns have persisted throughout the last decade, it said.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt essential services and drives more families into poverty, the report found that COVID-19 is also affecting how families feed their children. For example, a survey conducted among urban households in Jakarta found that half of families have been forced to reduce nutritious food purchases. As a result, the percentage of children consuming the minimum recommended number of food groups fell by a third in 2020, compared to 2018, it said.

The report further noted that children carry the scars of poor diets and feeding practices for life. An insufficient intake of nutrients found in vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish and meat needed to support growth at an early age puts children at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, potentially, death. Children under the age of two are most vulnerable to all forms of malnutrition — stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity — as a result of poor diets, due to their greater need for essential nutrients per kilogram of body weight than at any other time in life.

Globally, UNICEF estimates that more than half of children under the age of five with wasting — around 23 million children — are younger than two years of age, while the prevalence of stunting increases rapidly between six months and two years, as children’s diets fail to keep pace with their growing nutritional needs.

According to the report, children aged 6-23 months living in rural areas or from poorer households are significantly more likely to be fed poor diets compared to their urban or wealthier peers. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF representative in India, said, The fallout from COVID-19 has compounded the nutrition-related challenges.

The effective delivery of health, nutrition and social protection services is crucial if we are to maximise the multisectoral investments that impact a child’s nutrition status. Keeping girls in schools and delaying the age of marriage is also critical. We must realise that if children needed nutrition interventions before the pandemic, they need nutrition support now more than ever before. Containing COVID-19 and stopping malnutrition are equally important and urgent for protecting the children in India, she added.

Also Read: Poshan Maah 2021: Can India Become Malnutrition Free? Nutrition Expert Dipa Sinha Answers FAQs on Nutrition

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

24,06,78,961Cases
20,23,40,977Active
3,34,39,331Recovered
48,98,653Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 24,06,78,961 and 48,98,653 have died; 20,23,40,977 are active cases and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 4:17 am.

India

3,40,81,315 13,596Cases
1,89,6946,152Active
3,34,39,331 19,582Recovered
4,52,290 166Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,81,315 confirmed cases including 4,52,290 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,89,694 and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,91,697 1,715

32,230 994

64,19,678 2,680

1,39,789 29

Kerala

48,54,321 7,555

88,186 3,292

47,39,270 10,773

26,865 74

Karnataka

29,83,459 326

9,479 58

29,36,039 380

37,941 4

Tamil Nadu

26,87,092 1,218

14,814 208

26,36,379 1,411

35,899 15

Andhra Pradesh

20,60,472 432

6,034 159

20,40,131 586

14,307 5

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,028 9

119 10

16,87,011 19

22,898

West Bengal

15,80,530 624

7,421 24

15,54,132 634

18,977 14

Delhi

14,39,390 32

320 6

14,13,981 38

25,089

Odisha

10,35,077 443

4,542 68

10,22,250 508

8,285 3

Chhattisgarh

10,05,654 16

183 2

9,91,901 14

13,570

Rajasthan

9,54,390 2

42 2

9,45,394 4

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,290 10

207 6

8,15,997 16

10,086

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,684 5

84 12

7,82,077 17

10,523

Haryana

7,71,076 15

123 9

7,60,904 6

10,049

Bihar

7,26,026 5

48 4

7,16,317 1

9,661

Telangana

6,68,955 122

3,924 55

6,61,093 176

3,938 1

Assam

6,06,468 205

3,436 46

5,97,082 245

5,950 6

Punjab

6,02,035 27

227 8

5,85,264 16

16,544 3

Jharkhand

3,48,430 7

122 1

3,43,173 8

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,756 9

178 1

3,36,181 8

7,397

Jammu And Kashmir

3,31,062 95

843 12

3,25,793 107

4,426

Himachal Pradesh

2,21,437 131

1,303 5

2,16,414 125

3,720 1

Goa

1,77,522 60

604 6

1,73,572 62

3,346 4

Puducherry

1,27,396 52

585 13

1,24,961 64

1,850 1

Manipur

1,22,737 104

1,422 0

1,19,418 102

1,897 2

Mizoram

1,12,848 249

11,633 1,143

1,00,829 1,389

386 3

Tripura

84,321 16

104 4

83,401 12

816

Meghalaya

82,953 55

845 32

80,673 86

1,435 1

Chandigarh

65,302 3

25 3

64,457 6

820

Arunachal Pradesh

54,987 7

140 30

54,567 37

280

Sikkim

31,749 4

174 8

31,184 12

391

Nagaland

31,611 40

248 12

30,689 28

674

Ladakh

20,878 2

36 10

20,634 12

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,676 1

4 1

10,668

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

0 0

10,314

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,641

9 0

7,503

129

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