Chan said in Africa alone, the number of overweight or obese children increased from 4 to 9 million over the same period.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has blamed childhood obesity, especially in developing countries, on the marketing of sugar-rich non-alcoholic beverages and ultra-processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods.
Director-General Margaret Chan, on Tuesday told the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity meeting in Hong Kong that “childhood obesity can erode the benefits that arrive with social and economic progress.’’
She said that childhood obesity must be accepted as a significant and urgent threat to health that was relevant in all countries.
Chan said that governments must take the lead and now was the time to safeguard the future of every child.
She commended the interim report on the work carried out thus far by the commission and commended the group. Chan warned that voluntary initiatives were not likely to be sufficient.
"To be successful, efforts aimed at reducing the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages need support from regulatory and statutory approaches. Perhaps most importantly, you defined a moral responsibility and stated where it must lie. None of the factors that cause obesity are under the control of the child," she said.
She said that the number of overweight or obese infants and young children increased from 32 million globally in 1990 to 42 million in 2013. Chan said in Africa alone, the number of overweight or obese children increased from 4 to 9 million over the same period.
The WHO Chief quoted fact sheet on childhood obesity as saying that the vast majority of overweight or obese children live in developing countries. She said that if the current trends continued, the number of overweight or obese infants and young children globally would increase to 70 million by 2025.
Chan said that WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly in 2014 approved the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases 2013-2020. The WHO boss said that the plan was aimed at achieving the commitments of the UN Political Declaration on non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
She said that the action plan would contribute to progress on nine global NCD targets to be attained in 2025, including halting of the global obesity rates in school-aged children, adolescents and adults