Social policy and advocacy


Monitoring the situation of children and women

Social policy analysis


Child nutrition

mics child nutrition
© UNICEF Thailand/2012/Jingjai N.

The results of the Thailand Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2012 carried out by the National Statistical Office clearly show continued strong progress for children on a variety of important indicators. The results, however, also underline a significant number of continuing challenges that require further attention by the government and its partners to ensure the well-being of all children in Thailand.

Good nutrition can change children's lives, improve their physical and mental development, protect their health and lay a firm foundation for them to realise their fullest potential. Undernutrition impedes normal growth, dulls the intellect, saps productivity and perpetuates poverty.

The MICS4 results
According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey conducted by National Statistical Office in 2012, with support from UNICEF, one child in six (16.3 per cent) under five years of age is stunted, meaning they are too short for their age due to inadequate nutrition over a long period of time. Stunting is more common in the Northeast, where almost a fifth (18.9 per cent) of children are stunted, and it is also common in the South (16.7 per cent) and in Bangkok (16.2 per cent). Nearly a quarter (23.1 per cent) of children in the poorest wealth quintiles, and over a third (34.1 per cent) of children whose mothers have no education, are stunted.

Nearly one in 10 (9.2 per cent) children under five years is underweight, which can indicate both acute and chronic malnutrition. Underweight children can be found across the country, but again they are more common among the poorest wealth quintiles (13.5 per cent) and among children with mothers who have no education (14 per cent). Wasting, which reflects acute undernutrition, affects 6.7 per cent of children under five.

In addition to problems of undernutrition, over one in 10 (10.9 per cent) children under five years is overweight. Overweight children are more common among the richest wealth quintile (14.9 per cent), and in Bangkok (13.6 per cent) and the Central region (15.4 per cent).

Low birth weight is an indicator not only of a mother’s health and nutritional status, but also of a newborn’s chances for growth, long-term health and psychosocial development. Low birth weight (less than 2,500 grams) carries a range of grave health risks for children. Almost one in twelve (7.6 per cent) newborns is underweight. Underweight babies are more common in the Northeast (9.3 per cent), the North (8.9 per cent) and in rural areas (8.1 per cent).

Opportunities for improvement
Stunting and other forms of undernutrition reduce a child’s chance of survival, while also hindering optimal health and growth. Stunting is associated with suboptimal brain development, which is likely to have long-lasting negative consequences on cognitive ability, school performance and future earnings.

Reductions in stunting and other forms of undernutrition can be achieved through proven interventions. These include improving women’s nutrition, especially before, during and after pregnancy; early and exclusive breastfeeding; timely, safe, appropriate and high-quality complementary food; and appropriate micronutrient interventions. But timing is crucial – interventions should focus on the critical 1,000-day window that includes pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life.  



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