Childhood obesity a major health threat in developing worldListen /
Many developing countries lack policies to halt the threat to public health due to the growing number of children and adolescents that are overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO says more than 75 per cent of the 43 million children under the age of five who are overweight live in developing countries with the prevalence in Africa almost doubling in the last 20 years.
The UN health agency says there was scientific evidence which shows that children who are undernourished in their first years of life are more likely to become overweight as adolescent.
Dr Francesco Branca from WHO's Department of Nutrition, says improving nutrition of pregnant women and encouraging early initiation of breast-feeding could prevent both malnutrition and overweight.
"For all these conditions we know what can be done, it’s a matter of reaching those in need. We would like to have universal coverage of these life saving simple and often very cheap interventions to improve nutrition since early life. When a child is born making sure that the right feeding is there. So breast-feeding which should be initiated very early in life then continued being exclusive for the first six months and going on throughout the first two years. When a child has gone through its sixth month of life, then the important intervention is to make that the quality of diet what we call complementary feeding is adequate, and this can happen through family foods, but at the same time it can happen though the provision of additional foods which can be manufactured."
Dr. Branca says obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, with an increased risk of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Radio Geneva.