Healthy diet, healthy kids | Borneo Online Bulletin

Aqila Rahman

For young children, eating a varied diet during the first two years of life is associated with improved linear growth. A lack of diversity in food consumption, especially nutrient-rich foods such as eggs, fish, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, can put children at risk for nutrient deficiencies, stunted growth, and impaired physical and cognitive development.

Yet millions of families struggle to provide their children with the nutritious food they need.

The Child Food Poverty Report, published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), highlights the global crisis of child food poverty – a condition in which young children do not eat the minimum food groups they need in early childhood.

“Children cannot survive on staple grains alone. They need to eat a variety of nutritious foods – including fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs and dairy products – to fuel their growing brains and bodies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell in the introduction to the report.

“But today in low- and middle-income countries, two out of three children under the age of five suffer from food poverty. These children are not getting the minimum and varied diet they need to grow and develop to their fullest potential.”

The report highlights that young children should eat a variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs and support healthy growth and development.

At least five of the following eight food groups should be consumed: 1. Breast milk. 2. Cereals, roots, tubers and bananas. 3. Legumes (beans, peas, lentils), nuts and seeds. 4. Dairy products (milk, infant formula, yogurt, cheese). 5. Meat food (meat, fish, poultry, organ meats); 6. Eggs. 7. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A. and 8. Other fruits and vegetables.

Children who are fed four or fewer food groups on a given day are classified as food-poor. Globally, 478 million children under the age of five are food-poor, of whom 202 million are severely food-poor (zero two food groups per day).

South Asia accounts for the majority of the number of children suffering from acute food poverty with 64 million, which is half of the total number in the region followed by West and Central Africa (31 million) and Eastern and Southern Africa (27 million). Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa together account for more than 60 percent of all children living in extreme food poverty.

According to the 2022 Global Report on Food Crises, 42 countries have high levels of food and nutrition insecurity, of which 15 are experiencing some of the worst effects of the global crisis. The fifteen countries have eight million children suffering from severe wasting and 40 million children living in extreme food poverty.

At most, children consume two of the recommended food groups instead of the five minimums for healthy growth and development. These 15 countries account for more than 20 percent of all children living in extreme food poverty.

In the 15 most affected countries, more than 85 percent of children living in acute food poverty in early childhood are fed breast milk/dairy products with starchy materials (cereals, roots and tubers). Their diet is severely lacking in nutrient-rich foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, meat, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Children in the Horn of Africa are particularly at risk. More than half of children living in extreme nutritional poverty are fed only some milk, either breast milk alone or with animal milk.

The report calls on governments to take the lead in ending child food poverty and ensuring every child’s right to food and nutrition. This includes making nutritious food more available and affordable, leveraging health systems to provide basic nutrition services, designing protection systems for vulnerable families, and strengthening nutrition governance at the national and global levels.

“Families everywhere play an important role in ensuring that children are fed nutritious food, but they cannot do it alone,” the CEO said.

“The crisis of children living in food poverty must be resolved through a systems approach – leveraging the potential of food, health and social protection systems – driven by critical political will and national and global investments.

“Every child has the right to food and nutrition. Right now, with so many millions of children at risk, it is up to all of us to help realize this right for every child – and prevent food poverty from casting a shadow over the future of another generation of children. “.

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