DAK NONG — The number of malnourished children in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Dak Nong has decreased by 10 per cent in two years, according to experts from the Reproductive Health Care Centre.
By June last year, a total of 15,770 under-five-year-old children were reported to be suffering from malnutrition - or 28.8 per cent of the total number of children. This compared to about 17,340 undernourished children in 2009.
As a pointer to the problem, statistics reveal that as many as 1,136 children aged under two years did not gain any weight in three consecutive months during 2008.
Tuy Duc District led the list with 1,177 children classified as thin and weak and 1,178 regarded as undersized.
Statistics from the centre show that in 2006, 4,200 out of 10,926 newborn babies weighed under 2.5kg compared to the 3kg that is considered normal. This was 39 per cent of all new born babies.
And as many as 33.6 per cent of all children suffered from malnutrition, including 68 at Level Three - the highest level.
"There are many reasons for the situation, but the most significant is that Dak Nong is a mountainous province with a slow-growing socio-economy," said Nguyen Thi Lan, director of the provincial centre.
More than 34 per cent of local people are from ethnic minorities, and 19.4 per cent are so poor they can't always provide food for their children.
"Another reason for the low birth weights and malnutrition is that family planning is not well implemented. Parents often have little knowledge about nutrition, food safety and hygiene," Lan said.
H'Ri Eban, from Cu Jut District, said she weaned her baby at only two months because she had to work in the fields all day.
H'Jac M'Lo from Ea Ko Village said she never ate vegetables or soup when she was breast feeding her baby because this was the local custom.
Lan said that weaning babies too early and the dry and salty food eaten by nursing mothers contributed to malnourishment.
Another reason was that co-ordination between relevant authorities in the province was not always comprehensive, she said, even though they spent great effort in reducing the number of malnourished children.
In 2004, the province established a steering committee to overcome malnutrition. The provincial People's Committee, the Preventive Medicines Centre, the Department of Health and the Department of Population and Family Planning were among the organisations involved.
The new committee instructs pregnant women on how to take care of their children and how to strengthen themselves with nutritional food. Medical workers have also been given training to improve their specialist knowledge.
The committee has also arranged for local children to be vaccinated in line with the aims of the National Vaccine Programme - and to teach couples about family planning.
However, Lan said that the best way for the province to protect local children from malnutrition would be to invest in developing the socio-economy and improving people's living standards. — VNS