Addressing double burden of malnutrition must be prioritized in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – UNICEF
New State of the World’s Children Report finds too many children living with negative health consequences due to poor diets
Almaty, KAZAKHSTAN, 25 October 2019 – The new State of the World’s Children Report: Children, Food and Nutrition was launched at a special event in Kazakhstan to promote nutrition and raise awareness about unhealthy diets among children in Central Asia. The event included more than one thousand child participants and was organized by the Foundation of the First President of Kazakhstan.
The new report shows that at least 1 in 3 children under five globally – or over 200 million – is either undernourished or overweight. Almost 2 in 3 children between six months and two years of age are not fed food that supports their rapidly growing bodies and brains. This puts them at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, in many cases, death.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 18 per cent of the poorest children under 5 years old are stunted, which means they have low height for their age. While at the same time, 15 per cent of children under five years old in the Region are overweight, which is the highest rate globally.
“In Central Asia and Eastern Europe children face a double burden of malnutrition – undernutrition found alongside obesity,” said Amirhossein Yarparvar, Health & Nutrition Specialist for UNICEF’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. “Ensuring all children have adequate nutrition must be an urgent priority for policy makers, communities and families.”
The report found that the Region has made gains in exclusive breastfeeding, with the percentage of infants breastfed rising from 20 per cent in 2005 to 33 per cent in 2018. But even with this increase, 65 percent of newborns are deprived of the recommended 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding.
The report lists several recommendations to improve child nutrition, including:
• National food systems must put children’s nutrition at the heart of their work because their nutritional needs are unique and meeting them is critical for sustainable development.
• Financial incentives should be used to reward actors who increase the availability of healthy and affordable foods in markets and other points of sale especially in low-income communities.
• Financial disincentives on unhealthy foods can improve children’s diets. For example, taxes on sugary foods and beverages can reduce their consumption by children and adolescents.
• Fortification of complementary foods and staple foods with micronutrients can be a cost-effective intervention to combat hidden hunger in children, young people and women.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/eca/.