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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

UNICEF finds 1 in 4 children under 5 globally, 9 out of 10 in Gaza, experience severe child food poverty

Image via the Palestinian People's Party

UNICEF released a report June 5 that found that 181 million children worldwide under 5 years of age – or 1 in 4 – are experiencing severe child food poverty, making them up to 50 per cent more likely to experience wasting, a life-threatening form of malnutrition.

The report found that 65 per cent of these children reside in 20 countries – about 64 million are in South Asia and 59 million are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Staggeringly, in Gaza, 9 out of 10 children are dealing with high levels of food poverty as the Israeli onslaught continues.

“This is evidence of the horrific impact the conflict and restrictions are having on families’ ability to meet children’s food needs – and the speed at which it places children at risk of life-threatening malnutrition,” the report stated.

In Somalia, a country experiencing conflict, drought and floods, 63 per cent of children are living in severe child food poverty and in the most vulnerable communities, over 80 per cent of caregivers reported that their child had been unable to eat for an entire day.

UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Harriet Torlesse, who was also a lead writer on the report, said the children in the study are surviving on extremely poor diets, consuming just two or fewer of the major food groups.

To meet minimum dietary diversity for healthy development, children must consume at least five of the eight food groups determined by the degree of dietary diversity used by UNICEF and WHO.

These include breastfeeding, eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry and fish among other groups.

“For a child in Afghanistan, for example, that’s just some bread or perhaps a milk in the whole day, and almost certainly no vegetables and fruits and no good sources of protein," Ms. Torlesse said “And this is very troubling because these children cannot survive in such poor diets.”

“UNICEF is calling on all governments, development and humanitarian partners to act now to prioritise actions to end child food poverty. We must position the elimination of child food poverty as a policy imperative, particularly to achieve the sustainable development goals of malnutrition.”



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