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Climate Change Linked to Poor Nutrition in Children, Study Finds | The Weather Channel – Articles from The Weather Channel | weather.com – The Weather…

Posted: March 11, 2021 at 6:49 am


A volunteer holds a child as they queue for food during a lunch distribution by the nonprofit organization and charity group "Hunger has no Religion" in Johannesburg on Feb. 26, 2021.

Climate change is a key contributor to hunger and poor nutrition in children worldwide, according to new research.

The study looked at diet diversity the number of types of foods that someone eats in children 5 years and younger. Diet diversity is an indicator of diet quality and is generally linked to malnutrition.

The researchers included both the long- and short-term effects of temperature and rainfall in their models, as well as other things that might affect a child's diet. The results showed that higher temperatures were associated with decreased diet diversity in five of the six regions studied, while higher rainfall was associated with increased diet diversity in three of the regions.

And not only were temperature and rainfall a factor, they played as much or more of a role than some of the other influencers.

"I wasnt necessarily surprised that climate had an impact, but I was surprised that the effect of climate, as compared to other factors that affect nutrition such as wealth, education, sanitation, was in some cases relatively greater," lead author Meredith Niles, an assistant professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont and a fellow at the universitys Gund Institute for Environment, told weather.com in a recent interview. "That was very surprising that climate factors and climate change may have greater impacts on diet and nutrition outcomes than other factors that are often the target of development efforts in low-income countries."

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Worldwide, some 191 million children under the age of 5 are classified as stunted or wasted, meaning they are too short or too thin, according to the United Nations' most recent annual report on global food security and nutrition.

Nearly 700 million people are considered hungry or undernourished, with that number projected to rise to 840 million by 2030.

Among countries hardest hit by hunger are also those in the crosshairs of climate change.

More than 50 million people in 18 African nations, for example, face a hunger crisis due to extreme drought and other climate-related events, according to the aid group Oxfam.

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In 2019, parts of Zimbabwe had their lowest rainfall amounts since 1981, and maize crops in Zambia were been decimated. The situation was so desperate that some farmers in South Africa reportedly committed suicide, according to Oxfam.

At the same time, record-breaking temperatures in the Indian Ocean resulted in heavier-than-usual rainfall and flash floods on other parts of the continent.

Last year, locust swarms of historic proportions wiped out crops in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Studies have linked a hotter climate to more damaging locust plagues.

In all, more than half of the world's hungriest countries are in Africa, according to the 2020 Global Hunger Index. Poverty, conflict, lack of access to technology and other issues also make many of them among the most vulnerable to climate change.

The research led by Niles is just the latest to show a connection between the two issues.

"Climate change is going to deeply affect food systems, ranging from the crops and livestock we produce, to the cost of food if those crops or livestock are not producing as much, to the nutritional content of food," Niles said.

"Our work was done with climate data from 2005-2009, and found already significant effects of short and long-term higher temperatures on diet diversity. Knowing that many places are slated to get hotter in the future, it suggests that without adaptation we may see additional decreases in diet diversity with a warmer future."

The Weather Companys primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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