10 million African children obese or overweight – USA TODAY
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa âÂ Obesity is on the rise in a rapidly urbanizing Africa.
AÂ new report from the World Health Organization shows the alarming extent of the problem: The prevalenceÂ of overweight and obese children living on the African continent has surgedÂ from 4.8%Â to 6.1% in the last 25 years. The number of these children has doubled,Â from 5.4 million to 10.3 million.
The obesity has accompanied changes in lifestyles. With the shiftÂ from rural areas to cities, children are getting less physical exercise and eating more sugary and fatty foods.
The report hasÂ struck a chordÂ in South Africa, one of the fattest countries on the continent. Aaron Motsoaledi, the South African health minister, hasÂ said he wantsÂ to reduce the number of obese people by 10%Â over the next four years.
Worldwide, 41 million children ages 5 and under are overweight or obese. This number is expected to rise to more than 70 million in the next decade,Â according to the report, prepared by the WHOâs Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.
The greatest increaseÂ in the number of overweight and obese children isÂ coming from low- and middle-income countries.Â Almost half of theseÂ children live in Asia, and a quarter live in Africa.
Paradoxically, malnutrition in early childhood puts kids at a particularly high risk of developing obesity laterÂ if diet and exercise patterns change.
âMany countries now face the burden of malnutrition in all its forms, with rising rates of childhood obesity as well as high rates of childÂ under-nutritionÂ and stunting,” the report says.
âThe obesity epidemic has the potential to negate many of the health benefits that have contributed to the increased longevity observed in the world.”
Sania Nishtar, co-chair of the WHOÂ commission, said obesity can have an impact on a child’s educational success, as well as serious health and economic consequences later in life.
“Overweight and obesity impact on a childâs quality of life, as they face a wide range of barriers, including physical, psychological and health consequences,” sheÂ said.
The report calls for governments to promote healthy foods and exercise, and reduce consumption of junk food âÂ for example, through taxation or curbs on the marketing of sugary drinks.
“WHO needs to work with governments to implement a wide range of measures that address the environmental causes of obesity and overweight, and help give children the healthy start to life they deserve,” saidÂ PeterÂ Gluckman, the commission’s other co-chair.
This article originally appeared onÂ GlobalPost.Â Its content was created separately to USA TODAY.
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