KUALA LUMPUR: Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid today hit out at a United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) report which compared malnutrition and stunted growth among children in low-cost flats in Kuala Lumpur with that in Ghana.
He said there had been no reports from teachers about students going hungry in schools.
“I don’t know how Unicef could come out with such a report and compare us with Ghana. We can see ourselves that there are no children who are malnourished or have stunted growth.
“This is because we have the supplementary food programme that provides for students in need, in both rural and urban schools.
“We also carry out surveys and so far have not found any students going hungry. No such case have been reported by teachers,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat.
Mahdzir was replying to Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR-Lembah Pantai) who raised the issue of malnourished and stunted children in low-cost flats reported by Unicef.
The Unicef study on urban child poverty and deprivation revealed that the prevalence of underweight, stunting and wasting among children aged below five living in low-cost flats in the capital were double the city’s average, while the number of overweight children was 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 occurrence 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.
Mahdzir said this year, a total of 450,000 students received meals under the supplementary food programme in both rural and urban schools. Some students living in low-cost flats also benefited from the programme.
“Among the students are 40,948 in Chinese-medium primary schools and 26,620 in Tamil-medium primary schools,” he added.