Regional report on nutrition security in ASEAN

Southeast Asia is facing mounting health costs as a result of child malnutrition and obesity – a double burden – increasingly apparent in the middle income countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand warns the joint UNICEF and WHO report.

A joint report from UNICEF, WHO and ASEAN has shed new light on the nutrition situation of children across South East Asia. The report finds that several ASEAN countries are facing simultaneous crises of over and undernutrition, with some children overweight while their peers suffer from stunting and wasting. This ‘double burden of malnutrition’ is happening in middle income countries such Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. In Indonesia, the proportions are exactly the same: 12 percent of children are overweight and 12 percent are wasted. In Thailand, child wasting and overweight are both on the rise: between 2006 and 2012, wasting increased from 5 percent to 7 percent, and overweight from 8 percent to 11 percent. The causes of overweight and undernutrition are intertwined. A child whose growth was stunted in early childhood is at greater risk of becoming overweight later in life. The risk for being overweight goes up with increased access to junk food and drinks (those with high trans-fat or sugar content and low nutritional value), physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles. This is an increasing trend in many countries in the region, and contributes significantly to the growing prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart conditions.

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