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Children’s diet worsened due to Covid-19: UNICEF

By Pallavi Kanungo,

Around 50 nations have shown signs of ‘poor feeding patterns’ among children since the last decade.

Governments need to take necessary actions to ensure that children receive proper nutrition.

All of us have known for decades how poor nutrition during the formative years of life can harm kids’ physical and psychological growth irreversibly, affecting their health, education, career and life. However, ensuring sufficient nutrition for kids has always been a challenge, globally. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse. 

A recent UNICEF report suggests that kids growing in these pandemic times are not getting enough nutrition from their diet that is required for growth. It states that children born during COVID-19 might show signs of cognitive troubles in later years. This is resulting in a condition called ‘irreversible developmental harm.’ This report was released just before the start of UN Food Systems Summit in the last week of September. 

The study, titled ‘Fed or Fail’ focusses on how a medical emergency like COVID-19 pandemic along with other wrecking factors like growing poverty, inequality, conflict and climate change have shaken the world to its very core affecting children’s growth the most.  

What does the study stay?   
The UNICEF committee analysed data from 91 countries including India, and found that only half of the population aged between 6 to 24 months are given the bare minimum quantities to eat during the ‘recommended number of meals’ daily. On the other hand, only one-third of children worldwide are receiving ‘minimum number of food groups’ that they require to survive. More statistics from 50 other nations have revealed ‘poor feeding patterns’ among youngsters, something that have apparently lasted since the last 10 years.  

Further surveys have found evidence on how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to families feeding insufficient food to toddlers resulting in their malnutrition. For example, people living in urban Jakarta have been buying smaller number of nutritional food materials. It has led to a fall in the percentage of children consuming the ‘minimum recommended number of food groups’ by one-third, from 2018 to 2020. If this is the case in urban areas, it is needless to say that the situation is much worse in the rural areas. In fact, data suggests that in 2020, the amount of food youngsters received in urban areas has almost been double compared to the rural areas. 

Consequences of this poor-quality diet on kids 
Insufficient consumption of the right amount of nutrients through food during the growing years may lead to their faulty cognitive development, slow retention capacity, weakened immune system, risk of getting infections and high mortality rate.  

What can be done to redeem it? 
Immediate measures need to be taken by governments all around the world by joining hands with fund providing organizations, as well as human and children’s rights institutions to ensure kids worldwide have access to safe, fresh, nutritional and low-budget food. This can be only done if governments start rationing food items and offer incentives on basic yet high nutritional food materials like milk, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. Moreover, ban or high taxes should be put on artificially processed foods that are hazardous for children. Awareness campaigns must also be held to reach out to parents and children and make them realise the value of healthy and nutritional diet.