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A REPORT CARD ON NUTRITION: NUMBER 4, MAY 2006 View Previous Editions>


Tsunami reveals undernutrition
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The East Asia/Pacific region has the highest level of household iodized salt consumption in the developing world after Latin America/Caribbean.

That success is fuelled by China, where 93 per cent of households consume iodized salt.

East Asia/Pacific

East Asia/Pacific has all but achieved the MDG target mainly due to gains in China, where underweight prevalence was reduced by more than half. Without China, whose 86 million children under five represent 59 per cent of the region’s under-five population, the region would not be on track.
China’s impressive lowering of underweight prevalence has helped reduce its under-five mortality rate. Low birthweight rates have been reduced to just 4 per cent, while the proportion of households consuming iodized salt is by far the highest in the region.

Averages, however, mask substantial disparities, especially between rural and urban areas. For example, each year 1.5 million newborns in five provinces in China are unprotected against iodine deficiency disorders due to lack of iodized salt.

Malaysia has the fastest rate of improvement, with underweight prevalence declining more than one half between 1990 and 2003. Indonesia, Singapore and Viet Nam are also on track. Singapore now has the lowest under-five mortality rate in the world – lower than all industrialized countries except Iceland.

Progress is also being made in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and the Philippines, though still insufficient to meet the target. Timor-Leste has the highest proportion of underweight children in the region and fully half of its children are stunted, although data are insufficient to assess progress since independence.

Cambodia is currently least likely to reach the MDG target. The country has by far the highest rate of child mortality in the region, its proportion of underweight children grew between 1993 and 2000, only 12 per cent of Cambodian babies are exclusively breastfed and a mere 14 per cent of households consume iodized salt.

In Aceh, Indonesia, a survey conducted in early 2005 showed an average wasting level of 11 per cent among children under five displaced by the tsunami. This was virtually the same as among children not affected and slightly lower than levels seen just after the tsunami, highlighting the fact that poor nutrition is a long-term chronic problem related to poverty, poor nutritional knowledge and practices, and inadequate sanitation and food security.29


29  Government of Indonesia, ‘A Comprehensive Assessment of Nutrition and its Determinants in Tsunami-Affected Districts in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Indonesia: February–March 2005’.