PARIS: Climate change may contribute more to greater child malnutrition and poor diet than traditional causes such as poverty and poor sanitation, according to research published on Thursday.
Although childhood malnutrition has decreased globally over the past several decades, undernourishment has increased since 2015, in part due to warming temperatures and extreme weather.
The United Nations says 144 million children under five were affected by stunting in 2019 as a result of chronic malnutrition, with a further 47 million suffering from wasting caused by low nutrient intake.
Experts fear that the decline in essential nutrients in an increasing number of regions will challenge humanity’s ability to properly feed 10 billion people by mid-century.
A team of researchers led by the University of Vermont examined diet diversity among more than 100,000 under-fives in 19 low-income countries across Asia, Africa and South America.
They then combined this with 30 years of temperature and precipitation data.
They found that higher temperatures were associated with significant reductions in the quality of diet in five of the six regions studied.
Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the team warned that climate change could undo the great progress made by the world in child development.
“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, assistant professor of Nutrition and Food Services at Vermont. (RSS/AFP)