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Expert warns on child health

By Carol Natukunda

Added 14th November 2019 09:55 AM

Emerging information reveals that elite families are contributing to the burden of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity among children

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Dr. Kihara, the President of the African Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology speaking at the conference. Courtesy photo

Emerging information reveals that elite families are contributing to the burden of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity among children

 
 
They are well educated. But they cannot feed their children on healthy foods.
 
Emerging information reveals that elite families are contributing to the burden of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity among children, due to poor diets, a senior health expert has said.
 
Speaking at the sidelines of the ongoing International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Nairobi, Dr. Anne Beatrice Kihara, the President of the African Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said the problem of malnutrition now cuts across backgrounds.
 
"We now have malnutrition of lack(underprivileged families) and malnutrition of excess. The more affluent families are, the more the risk. What are we feeding children on? Chips, chapati, and other processed foods! And children are getting non-communicable diseases at a much younger age," said Dr. Kihara
 
She made the remarks on November 13, 2019, while giving a keynote address on gender equity gaps and adolescent health at the ICPD side event, organised by the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation(ACHEST).
 
Among other issues, the participants discussed policies and programs that need to be taken into action in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
UNICEF estimates that close to 45 percent of children between six months and two years of age are not fed any fruits or vegetables. Nearly 60 percent do not eat any eggs, dairy, fish or meat.
 
In contrast, 42 percent of school-going adolescents in low-income countries are consuming carbonated sugary soft drinks at least once a day, and 46 percent eat fast foods at least once a week.
 
This has contributed to overweight and obesity levels in childhood and adolescence.
 
"We must invest in the health of our children and adolescents," Dr. Kihara stressed.
 
She further decried the high rate of teenage pregnancies which she said were putting adolescents at risk of contracting HIV. 
 
Up to 21 million adolescents aged 15-19 in developing countries become pregnant every year, Dr. Kihara noted.
 
About half of the pregnancies (49%) are unintended. The majority die to childbirth and abortion-related causes.
 
"At 12 years, girls should be in school,  not nursing babies! Unintended pregnancy is just one sign of another bigger problem: HIV. Young mothers aged 15-24 are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men," she said.
 
"One of the smartest investments that countries can make is family planning to reduce HIV. We are at a demographic tipping point. There are 1.2 billion adolescents in the world today. Family Planning community must step up," she advised.
 
It is not just girls that are dropping out of school, but boys too.
 
"Boys are dropping out of school to do Uber(car hire business) and Boda Boda Where is the financial security in that? And some are resorting to drug abuse," said Dr. Kihara.
 
Against this background, Dr. Kihara stressed that gender equity efforts must be inclusive if the demographic dividend is to be achieved.
 
"An understanding of population demographics, public health, and social determinants are essential ingredients for development of nations."
She further recommended the use of technology as a means to reach young people.
 
The meeting committed to advocating for policies and programs that raise awareness and mindset change to mitigate and reverse the crisis of teenage pregnancies in African communities. It also pledged commitment towards advancing youth responsive programs.
 

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