Home Forums Article Talk Climate Change Pushing Up Child Malnutrition Levels, Finds 19-Country Study

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  • #3959

    miniming
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    Climate Change Pushing Up Child Malnutrition Levels, Finds 19-Country Study

    A study of 107,000 children aged five and under has found that rising global temperatures are equal or greater contributor to child malnutrition compared to poverty, inadequate sanitation, and poor education. The results of the study by researchers at the University of Vermont was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters.

    The 19-country study is one of the largest such studies looking at the relationship between climate change and malnutrition. Researchers examined the impact of temperature and rainfall on children’s diet diversity with the datasets going back nearly three decades.

    “Certainly, future climate changes have been predicted to affect malnutrition, but it surprised us that higher temperatures are already showing an impact,” said lead author Meredith Niles, an assistant professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont and a fellow at the university’s Gund Institute for Environment.

    The children studied lived in countries spread across Asia, Africa and South America.

    Significant impact of high temperatures

    Researchers focused on diet diversity, a metric developed by the United Nations to measure diet quality and micronutrient intake. Micronutrients, such as iron, folic acid, zinc, and vitamins A and D, are critical for child development. A lack of micronutrients is a cause of malnutrition, which affects one out of every three children under the age of five. Diet diversity is measured by counting the number of food groups eaten over a given time period.

    On average, children in the study had eaten food from 3.2 food groups (out of 10) – including meat and fish, legumes, dark leafy greens and cereal greens – in the previous 24 hours. By contrast, diet diversity in emerging economies or more affluent countries such as China have been more than double this average (6.8 for children 6 and under).

    “As the evidence for action increases, scaling up of any adaptation interventions should come with additional resources and support to ensure that programs that expand can achieve the same,” said Rupal Dalal, an associate professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Bombay, who was not associated with the study. “This is because food assistance or interventions that fail to consider the complexity of food systems as well as the trickle-down effect that climate can have across that system will fall short in response.”

    According to the United Nations, 144 million children under the age of 5 were affected by stunting in 2019, an effect of chronic malnutrition. In 2019, 47 million children under the age of 5 suffered from wasting, or acute undernutrition, a condition caused by limited nutrient intake and infection.

    On the climate front the year 2020 was among the warmest years on record and the world is set to exhaust its carbon budget in the coming decade if carbon emissions continue at the current pace.

    “A warming climate has the potential to undermine all the good that international development programs provide,” said co-author of the study Taylor Ricketts, director of the Gund Institute for Environment. “In fact, that is something we find again and again in this global research: continued environmental degradation has the potential to undermine the impressive global health gains of the last 50 years.”

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    Lahadier
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