By Lerato Ndlovu
With the hard hitting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the rate of people caring for their children’s wellbeing has decreased worldwide as more focus is now on one’s own health.
UNICEF executive Director Henrietta Fore said even before the pandemic children have been bearing poor diets leading to a nutrition and health crisis.
“Even before the pandemic, children were bearing the brunt of broken food systems and poor diets, leading to an alarming nutrition and health crisis worldwide, and a triple burden of malnutrition: undernutrition, in the form of stunting and wasting, widespread micronutrient deficiencies, and a growing prevalence of overweight and obesity.”
Globally 1 in 3 children is not growing well due to malnutrition a leading cause of child mortality worldwide,while 2 in 3 don’t have access to the minimum diverse diets they need to grow, develop and learn.
“We continue to see stubbornly high rates of wasting, and a worrying increase in overweight and obesity among young children, in recent decades, changes in our global food systems has seen many turn to processed foods that are affordable, widely available, and aggressively marketed, but often high in unhealthy sugar, fats and salt and dispose of the nutritious and safe food due to costs.”
WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a toxic combination of rising poverty, inequality, conflict, climate change, and COVID-19 is further threatening food systems and children’s nutritional well-being, especially those from the poorest and most vulnerable communities and households.
UNICEF and WHO called on governments and decision-makers to scale up effective approaches in their societies through: Incentivizing healthy diets through price policies, including subsidies to reduce the price of nutritious foods such as eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, or taxes to increase the price of unhealthy options.
Improving the nutritional quality of food through mandatory fortification of staple foods with essential micronutrients, the reduction of sodium and sugar, and the elimination of industrially produced trans fats in processed foods.
Using public procurement of food as a lever to promote healthy diets and drive sustainable food systems, for example through schools, workplaces, hospitals, and social-protection programmes.
Protecting children from the harmful impacts of marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages through strengthened regulatory measures and better enforcement.
Protecting and supporting mothers and caregivers to optimally breastfeed their babies, including maternal protection and parental leave, and the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
Putting in place mandatory, easy-to-understand nutrition labelling policies and practices to help children and families make healthier choices with the right information.
Supporting healthy feeding and dietary practices through the food, health, education, and social protection systems with easy to understand, coherent and memorable communication strategies.
Children must be at the heart of food systems transformation