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08/31/2021
Students in Armenia explore a healthy lifestyle with Healthy Buddy
https://www.unicef.org/eca/stories/students-armenia-explore-healthy-lifestyle-healthy-buddy
It’s 11 o'clock on a hot summer Sunday morning, but Achajur village school in Tavush marz is full of students. Over 120 children have come to school to take part in UNICEF’s  “Healthy Buddy” session , organized in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Family Academy NGO. Healthy Buddy is a special session about health nutrition and lifestyle designed for each age group that helps children of different ages to understand the importance of proper nutrition for their life and development and to become Healthy Buddy advocates themselves. Vahe, 7, is a new Healthy Buddy advocate, who walked for exactly 40 minutes from home to school today to take part in the session. “I have heard of words like ‘carbohydrates’ or ‘protein’ a lot, but I didn’t know that our immune cells are made up of protein, and carbohydrates are like fuel for people․ They give us energy to move and do other things. I also did not know that sugar is a carbohydrate, but it is a bad fuel.” Boy is listening to the Healthy Buddy session. UNICEF Armenia/2021/Margaryan Vahe prides himself of the little garden that he has at home, full of fruit trees - a big mulberry tree, a pomegranate tree, apple trees. He promised to take care of them and make sure to get his daily intake of fruit during the day. This extraordinarily smart, extremely active and quite mature 7-year-old is very caring for his family members, admires his brother, and dreams of creating a safe and positive environment in his community. “I want to become a lawyer and defend my community from criminals, so that we can all live in a better world.” Vahe glues the HEalthy plate magnet to their refrigerator. Vahe already knows that his health and success in the future depend on him eating healthy every day. Meanwhile, thousands of children in Armenia go through what experts call the triple burden of malnutrition. First, insufficient food intake threatens the survival, growth and development of children. Then there is micronutrient deficiency - a hidden form of malnutrition - in which case children do not get enough vitamins and micronutrients, necessary for a normal immune response, bone growth and brain development. On the other hand, there is also the issue of overweight or obesity due to excess calories and sedentary lifestyle. UNICEF, the Ministry of Health and other partners work to prevent this. “We want to create an environment where all children and young people enjoy their right to a healthy diet. Where children and their parents know exactly what is needed for healthy development and know that it is linked to children’s academic wellbeing at school and in the future. You need to eat healthy not only to have a healthy body, but also to have a healthy mind,”  explains Liana Hovakimyan, UNICEF Health Specialist and shares facts. Liana Hovakimyan, Health Specialist at UNICEF Armenia UNICEF Armenia/2021/Galstyan “In the first two years of life, 75% of each spoon is spent on building the child’s brain. As the child grows, his or her nutritional needs also grow. We all must act urgently to have a healthier generation and society.” At the Achajur school session, we met with three girlfriends - all three honors students, full of dreams, and super excited for the session to start. Three girlfriends - all three honors students, full of dreams, and super excited for the session to start. The girls were most surprised when nutritionist Lidia Ayvazyan listed the ingredients of carbonated drinks, chips, cookies and ice cream, while presenting the repercussions of consuming junk food. “Actually, I used to eat both healthy and junk food, but now I’ve made up my mind. I will definitely eat healthier and do my best to put together a ‘healthy plate’ with the help of veggies and fruits. I will put this ‘healthy plate’ sticker on our fridge, and it will always remind me of the secret to proper nutrition,” shared Anahit, 10, after the session. Nutritionist asks questions to the girl who participates in sessions, UNICEF Armenia/2021/Margaryan Anahit’s friend Narine added that they have already learned about proteins, carbohydrates and fats during their “Me and the environment” course at school. “But I didn’t know that healthy eating is also linked to learning well at school. I love school very much, so I have to eat well in order to study well.” Boy and a girl ate laying chess. Narine, who loves chess and dancing, dreams of becoming a writer. She has already authored her first four fairy tales, one of which is entitled The Chess Queen, where a little boy plays chess with the Queen and mates her in one move. And just like the little boy in Narine’s fairy tale, ever child has the potential to “check” and “mate” to reach their full potential. But first, they must be equipped with the necessary knowledge and opportunities to achieve their dreams. After Achajur, Healthy Buddy team is on the road again, set to reach to over 4200 girls and boys in Shirak, Kotayk, Aragatsotn, Lori, Tavush and Yerevan.
09/22/2021
Young children’s diets show no improvement in last decade, ‘could get much worse’ under COVID-19 - UNICEF
https://www.unicef.org/eca/press-releases/young-childrens-diets-show-no-improvement-last-decade-could-get-much-worse-under
Children under the age of 2 are not getting the food or nutrients they need to thrive and grow well, leading to irreversible developmental harm, according to a new report released by UNICEF today. Fed to Fail? The crisis of children’s diets in early life – released ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit this week – warns 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 ten years. “The report’s findings are clear: When the stakes are highest, millions of young children are being fed to fail,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “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.” In an analysis of 91 countries, the report finds 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 reveals these poor feeding patterns have persisted throughout the last decade. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt essential services and drives more families into poverty, the report finds that the pandemic is affecting how families feed their children. For example, a survey conducted among urban households in Jakarta found that half of the families have been forced to reduce nutritious food purchases. As a result, the percentage of children consuming the minimum recommended a number of food groups fell by a third in 2020, compared to 2018. 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 5 with wasting – around 23 million children – are younger than 2 years of age, while the prevalence of stunting increases rapidly between 6 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. In 2020, for example, the proportion of children fed the minimum number of recommended food groups was twice as high in urban areas (39 percent) than in rural areas (23 percent). To deliver nutritious, safe, and affordable diets to every child, the report calls for governments, donors, civil society organizations, and development actors to work hand-in-hand to transform food, health, and social protection systems by leading key actions, including: Increasing the availability and affordability of nutritious foods – including fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish meat, and fortified foods – by incentivizing their production, distribution, and retailing. Implementing national standards and legislation to protect young children from unhealthy processed and ultra-processed foods and beverages, and to end harmful marketing practices targeting children and families. Increasing the desirability of nutritious and safe foods through multiple communication channels including digital media to reach parents and children with easy-to-understand, coherent information. The report notes that progress is possible with investment. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, almost two thirds (62 percent) of children aged 6–23 months are fed a minimally diverse diet, while in Eastern and Southern Africa (24 percent), West and Central Africa (21 percent) and South Asia (19 percent), less than one in four young children are being fed a minimally diverse diet. In all regions, investments are needed to ensure that all children benefit from the diverse diets they need to prevent all forms of malnutrition, and grow, develop and learn to their full potential. “Children cannot survive or thrive on calories alone,” said Fore. “Only by joining forces with governments, the private sector, civil society, development and humanitarian partners, and families can we transform food systems and unlock nutritious, safe, and affordable diets for every child. The upcoming UN Food Systems Summit is an important opportunity to set the stage for global food systems that meet the needs of all children.” ###