UNICEF: Over 180 million children globally living in severe food poverty

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned in a report citing Zimbabwe and various other countries today that one in four children under the age of 5 or 181 million children globally – live in “severe food poverty”, meaning they have no access to a nutritious or diverse diet in early childhood.

On a global scale, the problem in Zimbabwe, which is grappling with drought affecting nine million people, is characterized as “medium” while on the African continent the country is the forth worst affected after Somalia, Ethiopia, Lesotho and Malawi.

The UN’s children agency said, “Across the world, millions of parents and families are struggling to provide nutritious and diverse foods that young children need to reach their full potential.

Growing inequities, conflict, and climate crises, combined with rising food prices, the overabundance of unhealthy foods, harmful food marketing strategies and poor child feeding practices, are condemning millions of children to child food poverty.”

The report also found that “progress towards ending severe child food poverty is slow”, “unhealthy foods are becoming entrenched in the diets of these children”, and that “global food and nutrition crisis and localized conflicts and climatic shocks are intensifying severe child food poverty, especially in fragile countries.”

UNICEF called on national governments, development and humanitarian partners to ramp up efforts to fight child food poverty, leverage health systems to deliver essential nutrition services, activate social protection systems to address income poverty and transform food systems by ensuring food environments make nutritious, diverse and healthy foods the most accessible.