Turkish doctors have warned that the deepening economic crisis in the country has had detrimental effects on the physical development of children, the Birgün daily reported.
According to the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) the rising price of food means that many low-income families have not been able to afford enough food for their children. This has led to health problems associated with malnutrition.
The doctors said they have seen an increase in iron deficiency, protein deficiency, infectious diseases and eating disorders. Dr. Nursel Şahin from the TTB said malnutrition is directly linked to developmental problems. “It is crucial that children have a well-rounded diet in the early stages of their life,” she said. “Otherwise, they are at risk of delay in mental and physical development, a poor immune system and life-long health problems.”
Şahin said many children’s diet consisted of pasta, rice and bread, which are relatively cheaper. She described these as “empty calories” and said such a diet leads to childhood obesity.
According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), only 12.7 percent of children eat fish, meat or chicken daily, and only 33 percent have vegetables every day. The situation is worse in rural areas of the country.
The lack of nutritious food also leads to poor school performance according to the doctors. “The government should start thinking about offering free meals at schools to tackle problems associated with malnutrition,” Şahin said.
Earlier this year, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Murat Emir revealed that 157,248 children in Turkey were living in poverty, to the extent that their families could not even meet their basic needs.
These numbers were collected by the Family and Social Services Ministry-led Social and Economic Support (SED) program. The aim of SED is to support families in taking care of the needs of their children until their situation improves. According to Emir, there has been a considerable increase in the number of families that have applied to SED in the last two years.