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Child malnutrition prevalent in central/south Iraq

Tuesday, May 29 1997: A nutrition status survey conducted last month by the Ministry of Health in cooperation with UNICEF and the World Food Programme shows widespread malnutrition in central/south Iraq. In 1991, one year after the Gulf war, 9.2 per cent of children under five years in the 15 governorates in the area were found to be malnourished. Today, the figure has risen to 25 per cent, or some 750,000 children.

The survey was conducted at 87 primary health care centres during three National Polio Immunization Days (12-14 April 1997). When parents brought their children to receive the polio vaccine, a sample of 15,000 children was also examined to assess their nutritional status.

Findings from the study highlight the alarming level of chronic malnutrition (low height for age) among children under five which has reached an average of 27.5 per cent. Chronic malnutrition has long-term implications on a child's physical and mental development. After a child reaches two or three years of age, chronic malnutrition is difficult to reverse and damage to the child's development is likely to be permanent. This situation is a direct result of a combination of factors including adverse economic conditions, poor health, inappropriate or insufficient food, and lack of proper care.

The survey also shows the following:

  • Every governorate in central/south Iraq has a rate of chronic malnutrition of at least 20 per cent;
  • The children most at risk are under two years old, with a high prevalence of acute malnutrition (low weight for height) from six to 23 months, due to inadequate feeding and infections;
  • The level of malnutrition is similar for boys and girls;
  • There is little or no difference between urban and rural areas.

Note:
General malnutrition = low weight for age
Chronic malnutrition = low height for age
Acute malnutrition = low weight for height

Please email media@unicef.org with comments or requests for more information, quoting CF/DOC/PR/1997/17.


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