The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has warned that five in six children under the age of two are not fed enough nutritious food required for their age and this puts them at the risk of irreparable health damage. The organisation also said that 50% of children aged between six months and two years were not being provided the right quantity of meals.
A new Unicef report has thrown light into the stark reality in the developing nations, where it is said that some babies even wait for too long to have their first bite. One in five babies get to taste any solid food only at 11 months, while the recommended age for starting solids is six months.
The report was published ahead of World Food Day that comes on October 16. It fears that depriving children of the right choice of food, frequent meals and lack of food variety at the most crucial period could affect their physical (bones and body) and cognitive development (growth of brains).
"Poor nutrition at such a young age causes irreversible mental and physical damage," France Begin, senior nutrition adviser at Unicef said.
The report noted that even in wealthier families, one in three children in the age group of six to 11 months do not eat diverse diet rich in vitamins and proteins. Compared to the rich children, only one in six children from the poorest households in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia get to eat a well-balanced platter, including meat, eggs, fish and dairy.
"How can it be that in 2016 we still have so many children who are not getting enough nutrition [for] healthy growth?" she told Reuters. "The first two years of life ... is a window of opportunity you don't want to miss."
Feeding right amount and choice of food to babies and infants could save 100,000 lives a year, besides reducing the costs for medical treatments in adult life and improving productivity, the Unicef highlighted.
Another major concern for deficiency of vital nutrients in children is attributed to the availability of junk food in the market. Foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and fast foods have become common in children's diet in recent years in both rich and poor households, according to Begin.
"My concern is that already children don't have enough nutrients in their diet to grow adequately, so if you replace good foods (they do receive) with foods that only provide fat and sugar ... you are not giving a chance at all to the child," she told Reuters.