1 in 4 children malnourished - UNICEF

Italy not exempt from the problem

(ANSA) - Rome, December 18 - Roughly one in four children under age 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition: 150.8 million in 2017, equal to 22.2 % of all children in the world, according to a recent UNICEF report. "There is a problem of food security for children living in the poorest families in Italy as well," the head of the Italian branch of the UN agency, Francesco Samengo, said.
    "However," he stressed, "malnutrition does not mean only not having enough to eat. It also means eating in an incorrect or unhealthy way. This is why, through this report, we want to highlight the problem of childhood obesity, which is taking on the contours of a true epidemic." Childhood obesity is growing due both to inactivity and bad eating habits, he said. This is especially true of Italy, where the percentage of children and adolescents that are obese rose three times over between 1975 and 2016. Another problem is disorderly eating habits, he added, citing "growing unease among adolescents" and "a series of other problems such as bullying linked to body image". Childhood obesity UNICEF noted, is due both to excessive consumption of sugar and fatty foods and an overly sedentary lifestyle.
    According to the most recent data from national statistics institute ISTAT, some 48.8% of children between the ages of 3 and 5 are sedentary, those this percentage drops in the subsequent years only to climb back up in the 18-19 age group to 20.8%. The report draws attention to the fact that, at the international level, in children between the ages of 9 and 14, 7.1% of males and 13.4% of females show disturbed eating habits.
    These habits are the most frequent in industrialized, high-income countries. Some 50.5 million children in the world are suffering from acute malnutrition. In 2017, 55% of children affected by chronic malnutrition lived in Asia, 39% in Africa. As concerns acute malnutrition, 69% of them lived in Asia and 27% in Africa.
    Over 200 million children suffer from malnutrition if all the forms of it are taken into consideration. Malnutrition was the cause of the death of about 3 million children in 2017.
    The same year 38.3 million children under age 5 were overweight: one in three in Europe, 9.7 million in Africa, 17.5 million in Asia, 3.9 million in Latin America and the Caribbean and 1.7 million in North America, according to a recent UNICEF report. A UN report released in September noted that hunger affected around 821 million worldwide in 2017 and has been rising over the past three years. The report had been prepared by the UN's three Rome-based food agencies - FAO, WFP and IFAD - along with UNICEF and the WHO.
    Poor progress has been made in reducing child stunting, the report said, with nearly 151 million children aged under five too short for their age due to malnutrition in 2017.
    Prevalence of child wasting remains extremely high in Asia where almost one in 10 children under five has low weight for their height, compared to just one in 100 in Latin America and the Caribbean.