Malnutrition problem a heavier burden in rural areas

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am


The physical development of children under six years old and their access to proper nutrition have greatly improved in the past 20 years, but the situation remains worrying for those living in rural areas, a government study has found.

The National Report on the Nutritional Status of Children 0-6 Years, released by the Ministry of Health yesterday, shows rapid improvements in child growth and development in both urban and rural parts of the country between 1990 and 2010.

The study found that the prevalence of all children younger than five being underweight was at 3.6 per cent in 2010, a 74 per cent drop from 1990, and the percentage of children experiencing stunted growth fell to 9.9 per cent in 2010, or a 70 per cent decline.

'The average growth and development of children in urban areas have reached or even surpassed the World Health Organisation's recommended child-growth standards and are close to the average level in developed countries,' the report said.

A report compiled this year by UN children's fund Unicef, for example, said the rate of children being underweight in the United States was 1 per cent, while the occurrence of stunted growth was 3 per cent.

China's new study also found that the mortality rate for children under five was 1.64 per cent in 2010, a 73 per cent decrease over the previous 20 years, and the percentage of those deaths caused by malnutrition dropped from 22 per cent in 2000 to 13 per cent in 2010.

Qin Huaijin , a Health Ministry official, noted that even though great great strides had been made in improving nutrition among children in China, problems and challenges still existed in rural areas.

Citing figures from the report, Qin said the rates of underweight children and of those with stunted growth were three to four times higher among rural children than their urban counterparts. And in 2010, 20 per cent of children under five were stunted and living in poor regions. He also noted that the odds of being underweight or slow to grow were three times greater in poor rural areas compared with rich rural areas.

Additionally, 15 million children under five whose migrant-worker parents left them in rural areas, along with some children who moved with their parents, were found to suffer from different degrees of malnutrition, mainly due to poor living conditions and the limited education of the children's guardians.

A Ministry of Health survey from 2009 showed that the prevalence of left-behind children being underweight and having stunted growth was 150 per cent greater than for children who lived with their mothers.