UN worries about children’s health

Pollution demonstration in Bucharest, Romania, February 14, 2020. Andreea Alexandru / AP

It sounds like an alarm signal, already activated, but which would sound even louder. Authors of a report published Wednesday February 19 in the British medical journal The Lancet believe that advances have been made in the area of ​​child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, but “These advances are now at a standstill” indeed ” threat “,

Climate change, junk food, marketing by tobacco manufacturers, etc. Children’s health is everywhere “Immediate threat” and no country in the world is adequately protecting their future, warns the United Nations (UN).

To reach this harsh conclusion, this group of 40 independent child health experts from around the world, convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef, has built a new index measuring the possibility of children flourish, using data from 180 countries (indicators of mortality, health status, nutrition, education, etc.).

Unsurprisingly, these are rich countries that come first with Norway in first position, followed by South Korea, the Netherlands and France. Conversely, the bottom of the ranking is occupied by countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia and Niger.

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“Intensification of climate threats”

But the authors of the report, titled “A future for the children of the world? “, compare this classification with “Sustainability” (evolution of CO emissions2, income inequality…) and stress that “If many high-income countries have a very good score on the flourishing index, they are close to the bottom of the ranking for their contribution to ecological sustainability”.

As for the poorest countries, if their greenhouse gas emissions are among the lowest, “Many are exposed to the most severe effects of rapid climate change”.

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Only nine countries are able to meet CO emission reduction targets at a time2 per capita set for 2030 while being in the top 70 scores for the flourishing index: Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Vietnam.

“Countries must reconsider their approach to child and adolescent health by making sure not only to take care of them today, but to protect the world from which they will inherit”said Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and co-chair of the commission of experts convened by WHO and UNICEF.

Among the threats to the health of future generations, the report first discusses air and air pollution“Intensification of climate threats”.

“If global warming exceeds 4 ° C by 2100 as projected today, it will have dire health consequences for children due to rising ocean levels, heat waves, and the spread of disease such as malaria and dengue, as well as malnutrition “.

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“Harmful business practices”

Experts also denounce “Harmful business practices” for the health of children, exposed to the marketing of brands of ultra-processed foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, electronic cigarettes or tobacco.

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Many studies show that “Industrial self-regulation does not work”, says Anthony Costello, pediatrician and former director of the Institute for Global Health (United Kingdom), referring to the exposure to alcohol advertisements during sports meetings and the explosion of childhood and adolescent obesity, multiplied by 11 between 1975 and 2016.

They also call on national governments to tighten their regulations in this area. They also recommend that they tackle “With the utmost urgency” CO emissions2 for “Ensuring that children have a future on this planet”, to take into account the voice of the youngest in political decisions and to systematically assess the effects of these decisions on child health.

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