The United Nations Children ' s Fund(UNICEF) has warned that 2.3 million Spanish children aged below 16 are at risk of malnutrition as a result of economic slump which has forced many families to cut down on basic necessities.“First they lower the quality of the food and buy cheaper. They stop buying meat and fish, later vegetables and fresh fruit,” Gabriel Gonzalez-Bueno, responsible for UNICEF Child Policies in Spain, said in a statement. “Instead they eat a lot of pasta and rice which do not contain all the necessary nutrients. Lastly, they reduce the amount of food they eat,” the statement added. Gonzalez-Bueno warned that food deficit in Spain, hit by recession, will increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases among children. Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking millions of jobs with it. Spain must lower its deficit to 4.5 percent in 2013 and 2.8 percent in 2014. Many economists, however, say those targets will be difficult to meet amid poor prospects for Spain’s economic recovery. The Spanish government has also been sharply criticized over its austerity measures that are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest. The Spanish economy, the eurozone’s fourth largest, shrank more than the estimated 1.4 percent, the National Statistics Institute said on August 27. Spain’s economy also hit a low point in 2011 when it increased by only 0.1 percent and not the 0.4 percent growth earlier announced, revised figures showed. The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy predicts a 1.3-percent economic decline this year, while the Bank of Spain said earlier this week that the recession will extend into the second quarter of the current year.