PETALING JAYA: A dietitian has pinpointed lack of food, irregular meals and insufficient knowledge of healthy diets as some of the main causes of stunted growth among children in Kelantan and Terengganu.
Rozanna Rosly, who leads the dietetic services at the Universiti Malaya Specialist Centre, said the situation was not new, citing a 2014 BMC Public Health study which linked lower socio-economic status, household food insecurity and poor child caring practices with childhood malnutrition.
Besides reducing poverty, the study said, community-based nutrition, hygiene education and extensive family planning were key to improving children’s nutritional status.
Rozanna was responding to a recent report by Unicef which said 26% of children below the age of five were facing stunted growth in Terengganu.
Speaking to FMT, she said malnutrition among children was a multi-dimensional problem.
“When you look at the study, the findings were that children in Terengganu were not eating enough. Some were at the point of being seriously ill. Poverty causes some children to be deprived of food security and health services.
“The study also pointed out the lack of hygiene in food preparation there. Not being able to eat was not the sole reason for stunted growth; it was actually a combination of circumstances.
“Even if good nutritional food is given in the area, the people there still lack good cooking facilities and clean water. This must be addressed and resolved,” she added.
Rozanna said it was equally important to improve the health and nutrition of mothers, which could go a long way in determining the health of their children.
“We should also look at the need to improve the health and well-being of future mothers. A mother who is healthy will deliver a healthy baby. Governments should look at giving aid or subsidies to those in the lower socio-economic group.
“This includes balanced nutritional drinks, milk and ready-to-drink nutritional beverages or ready-to-eat nutritious snacks or meals that do not require clean water.
“Giving milk powder without providing access to clean water would be useless. The authorities should also look at de-worming these children and giving them supplements comprising vitamins and minerals to prevent or improve nutritional deficiencies.”
Rozanna said government-subsidised clinics could also play a role in monitoring the children’s health, while information on where to get aid should be widely spread.
“(Parents) do not know where to go to get this assistance. They need to be educated about malnutrition and the impact that this may have on their children.
“Maybe they do not even know that their children are not growing.”
She also emphasised the need for family planning to curb malnutrition among children in cases where parents were unable to afford feeding all their children.
“Sometimes having many children puts a strain on the parents to provide for them. As a result, some children do not even have sufficient milk to drink.”