Unicef warns on health of KL children in new study

Reuters pic.

PETALING JAYA: A new study on Malaysian urban children by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has revealed that one in five children in Kuala Lumpur’s working class neighbourhoods such as low-cost flats is stunted, while one in 10 is underweight.

The study on urban child poverty and deprivation also revealed that the prevalence of underweight, stunting and wasting among children aged below five living in low-cost flats in the capital are double the city’s average, while the number of overweight children is six times higher (23%).

Wasting is a gradual decrease of the body’s weight, resulting in a person becoming thinner than normal.

But the report also noted a high occurance of obesity, even when compared to countries with the same level of economic wealth as Malaysia.

“For instance, nearly 13% of our children aged five to 19 are obese, higher than Hungary (11%), Turkey (10%), and Poland (9%). In terms of stunting, Malaysian children perform worse than Ghana, despite Malaysia’s GDP per capita being six times higher,” the report said.

It also said a higher income does not mean better health, and even in the richest district in Malaysia, Putrajaya, almost one in four is stunted.

“Children in the poorest state, Kelantan, also performed much worse than children in low-income countries like Zimbabwe and Swaziland.”

The Unicef study was conducted between Aug 20 and Sept 30 last year, involving 966 heads of households and 2,142 children from 17 different locations in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

It also found that Malaysian children are worse off than some of its nine Asean neighbours.

Malaysia ranked eighth (8%) for children who are wasting, third (17.7%) for children who are stunted, fourth (12.4%) for children who are underweight, seventh (7.1%) for children who are overweight and ninth (12.7%) for children who are obese.

The report noted that malnutrition for children in low-cost flats was worse than the national and KL average, with the prevalence of malnutrition higher among older children.