|An official at the National Institute of Nutrition gives a health and nutrition checkup to a baby in Ha Noi. A Government programme aims to provide at least 200ml of fresh milk to two million children per day. —VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc
HA NOI (VNS) — Two million children at targeted kindergartens and primary schools across the country could be given at least 200ml of fresh milk per day from next year, as part of a planned government programme aiming to improve the health of the country's youth.
The draft programme is expected to be submitted to the Prime Minister for approval next month. If given the green light, the initiative will be implemented by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) in co-ordination with local partners and will run until at least 2020.
Among the children who will benefit from the scheme are 500,000 from some of Viet Nam poorest districts.
"It is urgent we implement the programme, because Viet Nam is on the list of the 16 countries with the highest number of undernourished children in the world," said Nguyen Trong An, deputy director of MOLISA's Department of Child Care and Protection.
He added that the average height of Vietnamese youths was 1.63m for males and 1.53m for females, which is 13cm and 10cm lower than world standards respectively.
The programme was piloted in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau during 2006-09, with all children aged 3-5 being provided with fresh milk every day. After three years, the number of local undernourished children reduced from 6,000 to 2,200.
A similar five-year programme carried out in China resulted in the average height of children increasing by 2cm.
"The programme would not only improve children's health but also promote the country's milk industry," said An.
If approved, the programme will be funded by the State, provincial and district budgets, along with sponsorship from international and domestic enterprises and donations from parents.
An said he hopes that milk companies and teachers would help to facilitate the plan.
Schools would track the success of the programme by measuring the height and weight of the children twice a year.
The people's committees in provinces and cities would be responsible for choosing the milk suppliers and delivering milk to schools and the programme's implementation would be supervised by six different ministries.
Milk drying up
Nguyen Xuan Duong, acting director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Department of Breeding, said that fresh milk production currently only meets around 26 per cent of local demand.
This is because breeding cows for milk is a new sector in the country and so farmers have little experience, he said.
He added that the tropical climate also affects the quality of the milk.
Duong suggested local communities select an outstanding milk cow breeding household to act as an example and source of knowledge to others.
Milk cow cross-breeding programmes are being set up to improve the productivity in the dairy sector.
The country has more than 5 million children studying at kindergartens and over 7 million at primary schools. To provide the milk for 2 million children every year, more than 470 million litres of milk would be required.
Viet Nam aims to raise the average height of men and women at the age of 18 to 168.5cm and 157.5cm respectively by the year 2030, according to a 20-year national programme approved by the Prime Minister. — VNS