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Poor diets fail children – report

Author: Staff Writer | Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Schoolgirls take lunch at their school in Wau on Oct. 10, 2019 | Credit | Unicef

A high number of children under the age of five is suffering from the physical consequences of poor diets and a food system that is failing them, the UN children’s agency has warned.

The State of the World’s Children 2019 report issued on Tuesday shows that more than 1 in 3 children under five globally, were either stunted, wasted or overweight, reflecting poor growth, and putting them at risk of increased infections, weak learning skills, low immunity and, in many cases, death in 2018.

Besides 1 in 2 children – or 340 million globally- suffered from deficiencies in vitamins and minerals such as iron and iodine, further undermining their growth.

In South Sudan, the numbers are alarming, UNICEF says. The prevalence of acute malnutrition among children has increased from 13 per cent in 2018 to 16 per cent in 2019, which is above the 15 per cent emergency threshold.

It says only 7 per cent of children under five in South Sudan has an adequate diet.

An estimated 1.3 million children under five will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2020.

This calls for a paradigm shift in addressing malnutrition by shifting from focusing on treatment to prioritizing prevention- reducing the need for treatment.

“Every child in need of treatment for malnutrition is a failure, a failure in preventing the suffering,” said UNICEF Representative in South Sudan Dr. Mohamed Ag Ayoya.

“Preventing malnutrition is an essential part of realizing every child’s right to health. Young children can suffer lifelong consequences and in worst case die if malnutrition is not addressed timely during the first crucial years in life.”

The challenge is not only securing enough food, but ensuring children are eating the right things and get the nutrients they need to develop to their full potential, the report recommends.

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