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Malnutrition is a major issue in ethnic minorities

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Girls of Hmong ethnicity in Nong truong Moc Chau Township in Vietnam’s Son La province. NGUYEN CUONG/VIETNAM NEWS AGENCY/VIET NAM NEWS

Malnutrition is a major issue in ethnic minorities

One in every three ethnic minority children in Vietnam suffers from stunted growth, while one in five is underweight, a new report said.

The study, released by the World Bank and Vietnam’s National Institute of Nutrition, is the latest comprehensive research on persistent malnutrition in the ethnic minorities.

Ethnic minorities account for 73 per cent of the poor in the Southeast Asian country.

The report said the rate of malnutrition in Vietnamese children remarkably decreased over the last two decades, from 36.5 per cent diagnosed with stunted growth in 2000 to 24.6 per cent in 2015.

However, the disparities between children of ethnic minorities and those of Kinh people, who have the largest population in Vietnam, grew larger over time.

There was approximately 31 per cent of minority children stunted in 2015, more than doubling the rate of Kinh people at 15 per cent and the average national rate at 17.5 per cent.

“Despite Vietnam’s impressive progress in reducing the rate of malnutrition over the past two decades, ethnic minorities children still lag behind, and the disparity is widening,” said World Bank country director for Vietnam Ousmane Dione.

“The next phase of efforts on malnutrition should be more targeted, concentrating on the provinces with the highest problems, to create a breakthrough.”

Poverty was believed to be the root of rampant malnutrition in the ethnic communities, as the report found only 39 per cent of children of two years old and younger received a nutritionally adequate diet.

Undernourishment in such time span – which is dubbed the first golden 1,000 days in a child’s life – can lead to extensive and largely irreversible damage to physical growth and brain development, the United Nations Children’s Fund said.

Malnutrition is a worldwide issue which is proved to be the cause of death for 45 per cent of children aged below five and also leaves long-term negative impacts on a person’s productivity and lifelong income.

The economic costs of undernourishment are estimated to bring a country’s gross domestic product down by between two and 10 per cent, the World Bank said.

VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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