HA NOI – The Viet Nam General Nutrition Survey 2009 – 2010 report, released today, revealed that one out of three children under the age of five suffers from malnutrition, causing serious developmental defects.
The study also showed that the rate of pre-school children who are unerweight is 17.5%, and that 29.3% experienced stunted growth in 2010. The figures come out ot coming to 2.1 million stunted and 1.3 million underweight children.
Another alarming finding was that children in remote areas suffer the consequences of malnutrition at a rate twice as high as those who grew up in more developed regions of the country.
Other scientific studies have proven that the effects of malnutrition go beyond the potential growth rate of individual children, but can also have an impact on the social and economic development of the country.
Nguyen Viet Tien, Deputy Health Minister, said, "This study has provided a more comprehensive picture of the nutritional situation of families in Viet Nam. This information adds to a wider understanding of the importance of the issue to our country."
Other problems revealed by the survey included an obesity rate among children close to 6%. These numbers are higher in large urban areas, such as HCM City and Ha Noi, where they are as high as 12-15%.
Since 2006, the childhood obesity rate for children under five has seen a six-fold rise.
"We face two challenges. On the one hand, malnutrition remains a problem in much of the rural area of Viet Nam, particularly in mountainous regions. At the same time, urban areas are facing the problem of childhood obesity. The situation requires quick action so we don't make the same mistakes as middle-income countries," said Tien.
Rajen Kumar Sharma, a representative from UNISEF, said, " Although there has been a notable reduction of growth-stunting over the last few years, the number are still much higher than they should be. These disparities in health and nutrition reveal underlying socio-economic factors at play."
The Government launched a National Nutrition Strategy through 2020.
Sharma said, "The National Nutrition Strategy particularly addresses the very important problem of stunted growth as a result of malnutrition. Now we are attempting to draw the attention of investors and other stakeholders to the seriousness the issue."
The National Nutrition Strategy Plan through 2020, which includes a vision towards 2030, was adopted this February by the Government. The overall goal of the strategy is to improve the physical and mental well-being of the population by ensuring adequate nutrition.
The strategy's focus is to the quality of meals and provide mothers with information about good nutritional practices to minimise the negative effects of obesity and malnutrition. An important part of the programme is also to educate the adult population about dietary standards.
The survery, conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition, included over 37,000 people from 8,400 households, and was spread over 63 provinces and cities nation-wide. The institute operates under the Ministry of Health, and co-operated with UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and the Food Agriculture Organisation. – VNS