UNICEF Report Reveals Shocking Food Poverty Rates Affecting Millions of Children Globally

World A recent UNICEF report uncovers that over 180 million children under five are living in severe food poverty. This article delves into the alarming statistics, affected regions, and the urgent need for global action.

Unicef Report Highlights Alarming Food Poverty Among Young Children

A recent UNICEF report reveals a distressing statistic: more than one in four children under the age of five worldwide are living in severe food poverty. This translates to over 180 million children who are at significant risk of suffering due to a lack of nutritious and diversified diets. Catherine Russell, the head of UNICEF, warns that children who consume only two food groups daily, such as rice and a little milk, are 50% more likely to suffer from serious forms of malnutrition.

According to the report, children should ideally consume foods from at least five out of eight groups daily. These groups include breast milk, cereals, fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A, meat or fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and other fruits and vegetables. However, 440 million children under the age of five, which accounts for 66% of children in low- and middle-income countries, do not have access to these essential food groups every day. Among them, 181 million children consume only two food groups at most.

Harriet Torlesse, a co-author of the report, points out that these children face significant developmental challenges. 'They don’t flourish. They do less well at school, and as adults, they have more difficulty earning a living. This maintains a cycle of poverty from generation to generation,' she explains. Torlesse stresses the importance of vitamins, minerals, and proteins for developing the brain, heart, and immune system.

Regions Most Affected by Severe Food Poverty

The severe food poverty is particularly concentrated in 20 countries, with alarming rates in Somalia (63%), Guinea (54%), Guinea-Bissau (53%), and Afghanistan (49%). The report also highlights the dire situation in Gaza, where 9 out of 10 children are living in severe food poverty due to the collapse of food and health systems exacerbated by the recent Israeli offensive triggered by the Hamas attack on October 7.

In high-income countries, data is scarce, but it is likely that children from poor households are also affected by nutritional deficiencies. Additionally, the prevalence of very sugary drinks and ultra-processed industrial foods marketed aggressively to families is compounding the issue. These foods are often cheap, high in calories, salty, fatty, and lack essential vitamins and minerals, which can promote obesity and poor health outcomes from an early age.

The UNICEF report calls for urgent action to combat severe food poverty. It advocates for the establishment of social protection and humanitarian aid mechanisms specifically targeted at the most vulnerable populations. Moreover, it urges a transformation of the agri-food system to challenge the prevalence of very sugary drinks and ultra-processed meals that do not meet children's nutritional needs.

  • The report underscores the importance of a diverse and nutritious diet for young children's long-term health and development. Without intervention, the cycle of malnutrition and poverty is likely to continue, as malnourished children grow into adults who struggle to earn a living and provide for their families.
  • Harriet Torlesse emphasizes that reforms in the global agri-food system are essential to ensuring children’s health. 'We must question the aggressive marketing strategies of sugary and processed foods that have become the norm in many households,' she states.
Daily Reports
Refs: | Le Figaro | ANSA |

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