Viet Nam is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of reducing child under-nutrition. UNICEF launches Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition
HANOI, 2 May 2006 -- More than one quarter of all children under the age of five in developing countries are underweight, many to a life-threatening degree, says UNICEF report Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition, published today. Poor nutrition remains a global epidemic contributing to more than half of all child deaths, about 5.6 million per year. The proportion of children under five who are underweight has fallen only slightly since 1990 - proof, according to UNICEF, that the world is failing children.
The report charts national and regional progress towards the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG): to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. Achieving this goal means halving the proportion of children who are underweight for their age, the most visible sign of under-nutrition. But current trends show the world is still far off track.
Despite progress in some countries, developing-world averages for underweight children have dropped just five percentage points in the last 15 years. Today, 27 per cent of children in developing countries are underweight – around 146 million.
The report shows only two regions of the world on track to meet the MDG target for reducing the prevalence of underweight children: Latin America and the Caribbean and the East Asia and Pacific region, with average underweight prevalence rates of 7 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. In East Asia and Pacific region, Viet Nam, together with China, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, are on track to meet the MDG target.
According to the report, Viet Nam ranks third in the region after Malaysia and China in the average annual rate of reduction. This impressive rate of improvement resulted in a sharp reduction in malnutrition rate among children under five from 51.5 per cent in 1985 to 25.2 percent in 2005. However, Viet Nam’s child malnutrition rate is still quite high in the region (China: 8%, Malaysia: 11%, Mongolia: 13%). Disparities exist between the regions and provinces in Viet Nam. For example, Dac Nong reports 35 per cent of children under the age of five are underweight, three times higher than the number from Ho Chi Minh City (10%)
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies may not be apparent to the eye but their consequences can be seen worldwide. These critical building blocks are essential to develop children’s bodies and minds. Without them, children become easy prey for common diseases and under-perform at school. Iron deficiency is one of major cause of maternal deaths. Unsafe feeding practices and repeated bouts of illness such as diarrhoea and malaria are all major factors depriving children of nutrients.
In Viet Nam, micro-nutrient deficiencies are emerging issues. Around 12.5 per cent of children under 5 years of age are vitamin A deficiency, 32 per cent of pregnant women are suffering from anaemia, and 53.8 per cent of lactating mothers have low ration of vitamin A in breast milk. Breastfeeding, the most powerful tool to ensure a child thrives through infancy, is a common practice but exclusive breastfeeding for first six months of life is rare (12.4%). Although 89 per cent children from 6-36 months of age were provided with high dose Vitamin A capsules twice a year, it is a challenge to ensure that the most disadvantaged women and children continue to have access to this service. Major achievements have been made towards Universal Salt Iodisation with 83 per cent of households consume iodized salt (ranked second in the region after China), but the sustainability of those achievements has not yet been ensured.
The report calls urgently for a nutrition “safety net” to guarantee children’s access to nutrition related services every day. This means making child nutrition a central component of national policies and budgets, providing better nutrition information and resources for families, and planning to cope with emergencies.
In Viet Nam, UNICEF has been working closely with the Government to improve the nutrition status of Vietnamese children and women. In the coming years, UNICEF will continue to support the Government in its advocacy and social mobilization activities to keep nutrition issues high on the national and local agenda; development and implementation of policies and legislations on nutrition which help to create and maintain a supportive nutrient environment for mothers and their children; provision of high dose Vitamin A capsules to all children from 6-36 months of age; promotion of the use of iodized salt; development of new initiative like supplementation of multiple micro-nutrient to pre-pregnant and pregnant women in the disadvantage area.
For further information please contact:
Caroline den Dulk (Ms), Communication Section, UNICEF Viet Nam
Pham Ngoc Len (Mr.), Health and Nutrition Section, UNICEF Viet Nam
Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong (Ms), Communication Section, UNICEF Viet Nam
or visit Progress for Children online at http://www.unicef.org/progressforchildren/2006n4/