Feeding young children: no improvement in ten years, deplores UNICEF

In this report entitled “Failure on the plate? The crisis of food in early childhood ”, made public on the eve of the United Nations Summit on Food Systems, the United Nations Children’s Fund warns that the increase in poverty, inequalities, conflicts, climate disasters and health emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic are fueling a real nutrition crisis among young people, a crisis that has seen little improvement over the past decade.

“The findings of the report are compelling: even though they are at a crucial stage in their development, millions of young children are not receiving adequate nutrition,” said Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF.

The impact of poor nutrition on children

“Insufficient nutritional intake during the first two years of their life can irreversibly harm the development of their growing body and brain, and therefore their education, employment prospects and future. . This has been known for years, yet little progress has been made in ensuring that young children eat age-appropriate, nutritious and safe foods. A situation that the persistent Covid-19 crisis is also likely to worsen, ”she added.

According to a study of 91 countries, it appears that only half of children aged 6 to 23 months receive the minimum number of recommended meals per day, and just a third of them consume the minimum number of groups of children. ‘foods necessary for their development.

Further analysis of 50 countries based on available statistics shows that these failing eating patterns have persisted for the past ten years.

In a context where Covid-19 continues to disrupt essential services and generate more poverty, the report shows that the pandemic is having an impact on the way families feed their children. For example, according to the results of an urban household survey in Jakarta, Indonesia, half of families had to reduce their purchases of nutritious foods.

The top layer of the pandemic

As a result, the proportion of children consuming the recommended minimum number of food groups fell by a third between 2018 and 2020.

To ensure that all children enjoy nutritious, safe and affordable food, theUNICEF calls on governments, donors, civil society organizations and development actors to work together to transform food, health and social protection systems.

Some of the key proposed actions include strengthening the availability and affordability of nutritious foods, establishing national standards and legislation to protect young children from processed and ultra-processed foods and beverages. -healthy processed, and increasing the attractiveness of nutritious and safe foods through the use of multiple communication channels, including digital media, in order to provide parents and children with consistent and easy-to-read information. understand.

The report underlines that with investments, progress is possible. For example, almost two-thirds (62%) of children aged 6-23 months living in Latin America and the Caribbean enjoy minimal dietary diversity, while this proportion rises to less than one in four children. in East and Southern Africa (24%), West and Central Africa (21%) and South Asia (19%).

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