Cyprus is among the countries with the highest rates of childhood obesity in the EU, MPs heard on Thursday during a session of the House health committee.

They were told that in 2021, some 49 per cent of children in Cyprus were classed as obese with numbers set to increase further.

Committee chair Savia Orphanidou said the situation was “worrying” and called the alarming childhood obesity rates “a long-lasting pandemic and the scourge of our time.”

“It is for this reason that want to praise the health ministry for having set up a dedicated committee to promote healthy eating for children,” Orphanidou said.

She also stressed that both the health and the education ministries should work together to promote physical exercise and healthy activities at all levels of the island’s education system.

Diko MP Chrysanthos Savvides called childhood obesity “a serious issue” and said that, unfortunately, research on the subject leaves little room to interpretation.

“Studies show that the age at which children are most at risk is between seven and nine years old,” he said. “At that age in 2021, 49 per cent of children were obese and the number is set to grow in the years to come.

“And yet, what is worrying is that, despite being aware of the problem, nothing seems to move. We are not addressing it seriously.”

Savvides said the committee constantly receives complaints from physical education teachers calling for more hours of exercise and activities in schools.

“Nutritionists and dieticians keep reminding us that children should grow up following a healthy diet, yet the childhood obesity rates are growing, which means the existing programmes set up by the education ministry have failed.

“We need to rethink them for the sake of our future generations,” Savvides concluded.