WHO: Libya Tops Global Ranking in Childhood Obesity

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The World Health Organization (WHO) published a report showing that Libya came first in the countries with the world’s most overweight kids.

Almost three in ten under 5 years old, 28.7%, are classed as overweight in Libya, according to the worldwide analysis of statistics for 2022.

WHO warned that obesity is moving in the wrong direction, and shows no immediate sign of reversion.

Australia ranked second in the table of 198 countries, with 21.8% of children classified as overweight. Tunisia came third with 19%, while Egypt ranked fourth with 18.8%.

The report blames high-calorie and high-fat diets and a lack of physical activity for Libya’s obesity epidemic.

In March, WHO voiced its concern about the rise in measles cases in Libya, especially in the south and west of the country.

The National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) has reported that 93 of 391 suspected measles cases had been confirmed, with no related deaths.

It added that the most affected areas were Althanawia, Almashroa’, Hay Abdel kafy, Altaury, and Altadamon in the Sebha municipality, and Tenenei in the Bani Walid municipality.

Elizabeth Hoff, WHO Representative to Libya, said that “the re-emergence of sporadic outbreaks is a worrying sign of a heightened risk for spreading vaccine-preventable diseases, that could place children’s health at significant risk.”

She added that the “ongoing conflict, pandemic-related disruptions, and increasing inequalities in access to vaccines globally, and in the region have led to the diversion of resources from routine immunization programs in Libya, leaving children unprotected against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Hoff urged the Libyan health authorities and the international community to provide more support to help address critical health needs in the country.

She also acknowledged the efforts made by the NCDC and the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre to respond to the current measles outbreak. This is by organizing supplementary immunization campaigns, improving measles case management, enhancing infection prevention and control measures, and launching risk communication and community engagement activities in the outbreak areas while supporting routine immunization efforts.

To prevent and respond to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, WHO and UNICEF are supporting efforts to strengthen immunization systems, to ensure every child receives the protection they need.

This includes re-launching vaccination campaigns, identifying communities and people missed during the pandemic, and ensuring that COVID-19 vaccine delivery is integrated into overall immunization services.

“It is essential that all the vaccination sites receive an immediate supply of all vaccines to ensure uninterrupted implementation of the immunization schedule based on the national protocols,” said UNICEF Special Representative in Libya, Abdul-Kadir Musse. “Vaccines are crucial, and no child is safe until every child is safe,” he warned.