malnutrition in latin american children
Families residing in Latin America are currently experiencing a problem with nutrition, specifically with children being drastically underweight or overweight. This issue stems from inadequate health education, lack of access to healthy foods, and in some poorer communities, no access to any food at all. Reports in 2018 determined that 20% of children under the age of 5 were not growing at a normal pace due to some form of malnourishment. As a result, these children faced stunted growth and/or obesity. Organizations are tackling this issue by addressing poverty as the root cause of malnutrition in Latin American children.

How Poverty Leads to Malnutrition

In 2017, 184 million Latin Americans were living in poverty while 62 million were experiencing extreme poverty, creating an increased risk for child malnourishment. Low-income households often cannot purchase food, afford healthy foods or are food insecure, which perpetuates unhealthy development. This means children in poor homes are unable to consume the required number of food groups to support their growth. The poorest Latin American countries have it the worst. In 2019, one in two Guatemalan children under the age of 5 had stunted growth.

Children in marginalized households also face obesity. Obesity can lead to long-term health risks such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and mental health complications in adulthood. In 2017, 20% of children under the age of 20 were either obese or overweight in Latin America. A major reason for the continent’s growing obesity rate is the marketing of inappropriate diets. The U.N. highlighted a common marketing trend in Latin American countries: the cheaper choice receives heavy promotion, therefore outselling the healthier choice. This creates a higher demand for processed foods. Processed foods are more readily available in grocery stores than nutritious foods, perpetuating unhealthy habits among children in poverty.

Who is Helping?

There are many organizations that are working to end malnutrition in Latin American children. The nonprofit Save the Children currently has multiple programs in action that specifically target child malnourishment in Latin America by uplifting inclusive markets and strengthening household incomes. So far this nonprofit has provided over 350,000 Haitian children with vital nourishment. Kids Alive International also reaches out to vulnerable children by providing nutritious meals in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti and Peru.

UNICEF calculated in 2019 that malnutrition affected 5.1 million children under the age of 5, with children from the poorest households being four times more likely to experience malnourishment. UNICEF is working toward making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality for Latin American children. It hopes to end poverty and the effects of malnutrition by 2030.

Malnutrition in Latin American children continues to be a health crisis with poverty being a primary source. Every child should have the right to healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. International aid helps make those rights a reality.

Radley Tan
Photo: Pixabay

childhood obesity in poverty-stricken AfricaChildhood obesity is a major issue in middle-income countries. However, this issue is growing in low-income countries as well now. In Africa, micronutrient deficiency and wasting are among the biggest challenges associated with children’s health. However, with sugary foods and snacks becoming cheaper and more accessible, childhood obesity is becoming more of an issue in Africa. A 2000 survey revealed that 10% of low-income countries had a 10% rate of teenagers who were overweight. Just between 2014 to 2016, that number jumped from 40% to 75%. It is quite clear that this issue is quickly increasing.

The Problem of Childhood Obesity

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa is one of the most pressing issues of this century. Without intervention, this issue will only continue to spread.  Along with it, long-term health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes, will also increase. Furthermore, not only are obese people at risk of contracting preventable health conditions but they are also at risk of early death. According to WHO, obesity takes more than two million lives every year worldwide.

Despite the growing economy in Africa, millions still suffer from poverty. This poverty, coupled with the growth of obesity, has Africa simultaneously facing two major challenges. These two challenges have led to a significant increase in diseases throughout Africa. Since the 1980s, diabetes has grown by 129% in Africa. To combat the spread of diabetes and the consumption of high sugar beverages, South Africa has passed a bill that taxes such beverages.

Combating Childhood Obesity

A few organizations are taking steps to combat childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa. The World Health Organization places its focus on what types of foods to consume, the number of physical activities that are being completed and overall health. The organization believes that in order to avoid the increasing amount of childhood obesity that Africa is experiencing, there must be corrections to all three factors mentioned above.

WHO created the “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health” to reduce obesity and improve overall health. The strategy focuses on four major goals that will ultimately help combat childhood obesity, diseases and death. The four main goals are to reduce risk, increase awareness, develop policies and action plans and monitor science. Though created 16 years ago, this strategy will only begin to make an impact after several decades. In order for the strategy to succeed, all levels of life and business must assist in the effort.

Childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa continues to be an issue. Although a relatively new issue in developing countries, obesity is quickly increasing. Africa is now combatting both ends of the nutritional spectrum, with malnutrition and childhood obesity now prevalent throughout the continent. Despite increases in these issues, organizations such as WHO are working diligently to reduce childhood obesity in Africa.

– Jamal Patterson 
Photo: Pixabay