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Unbalanced diets harm many children

Update: May, 29/2013 - 09:11
Children suffering from malnutrition get health checks at the Khanh Vinh Medical Centre in central Khanh Hoa Province. Ensuring a balanced diet for children is the best way to avoid malnutrition. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc

HA NOI (VNS)— Few women follow medical workers' recommendations when feeding their children solid food, a recent survey by TNS Market Research Company revealed.

Out of 1,200 respondents in six provinces and cities, only 4 per cent said they followed official recommendations. The others followed advice from elder women in their family, especially in rural areas.

The survey also indicated that 61 per cent of women gave solid food to children too early, when they were only five months old. A smaller number (4 per cent) gave solid food too late, when the children were ten months old.

"Giving children rice flour soup too early means that they do not receive enough breast milk, which is necessary for their immune system, whereas giving the food too late leads to malnutrition," said Ha Thi Minh Khuong, an expert from the institute.

Compounding the problem, many of these children were not given a balanced diet. As many as 35 per cent of women did not add cooking oil to their children's food, causing fat deficiencies in their diets, and nearly 5 per cent gave their children bottled soft drinks, which are considered bad for children.

Fewer rural children received formula than urban children.

"We should have more financial policies for women with children under three, as many of them said that they do not have enough money to buy cooking oil, so they used animal fat instead," she said.

Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai, head of the Viet Nam Women's Union's Family and Society Division, suggested the National Assembly raise the one-time allowance for women after giving birth from VND2.1 million (US$100) to VND3.1 million ($150). She also said nutrition should be taught in school and physical exercise programmes should be expanded.

Additionally, she said, a network of people should be trained to provide families in rural areas with essential knowledge about nutrition.

Last year, more than 16 per cent of children across the country suffered from malnutrition, a decrease by 0.6 per cent compared with 2011.

The World Health Organisation named Viet Nam as one of the16 countries with the highest rate of stunted growth and malnutrition in 2010. — VNS


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