There are too many obese children in Barbados and Government must accept its fair share of blame, according to Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Sir George Alleyne.
Using his speech at the University of the West Indies (UWI) graduation ceremony on Saturday to address the issue of child obesity, Sir George lashed out at Government for not doing enough to ensure children eat less unhealthy foods.
“Any government which is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is not faithful to the articles of that convention when they allow their children to become fat,” Sir George told the gathering at the Cave Hill Campus.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child changed the way children are viewed and treated, and is the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history, according to the UN children’s agency UNICEF.
It was the second time in one week that an accusing finger was being pointed at Government by an academic for failing to protect children from unhealthy foods.
Speaking on World Obesity Day on October 11, Director of the UWI Chronic Disease Research Centre Dr Alafia Samuels had revealed that nearly 2,500 children in Barbados suffered from hypertension because of obesity.
Stating that “too many of our children are eating too much and moving too little”, she said that in the Government schools, “one fast food company . . . even tried to entice customers at an early age with branded supplies (pens, pencils, calendars, etc) that students look at every day in their classrooms”.
Sir George raised the issue again on Saturday, saying he had applauded the administration when it introduced the tax on sweet drinks, “but at the same time I pointed out that the state that allows its children to be exposed to advertisements for the very foods that make them fat, [that] state is not protecting the rights of the child”.
The Chancellor did not allow the adult population to get away lightly either, claiming that they, too, were violating their children’s rights by allowing them to become overweight.
“To the extent that adults allow their children to get fat, that is an abrogation of the child’s human rights, because children who are fat are storing up for themselves major problems in adulthood . . . they are storing up for the state major expenditure down the road in the area of chronic diseases.”
Worryingly, Sir George suggested, the Barbadian public was displaying a sense of apathy in this matter.
The former director of the Pan American Health Organization also called for the establishment of effective systems to emphasize the need to protect children from obesity and the associated health problems.