Health Ministry rejects UNICEF report

Speaking to the media yesterday at the Health Ministry, Health Ministry Secretary Janaka Sri Chandraguptha said that they are not satisfied with the data the UNICEF has used to compile this report. He further said that the UNICEF has compared the data of the surveys conducted in different years (1995 to 2019) for each country and have taken the demographic and health survey data of 2016 for Sri Lanka.

But according to the national level survey conducted by the Medical Research Institute in the end of 2021, the stunting of children has decreased to 13.2 percent and it has decreased to 12.1 at present, Chandraguptha said. He also said that unlike in other countries, there is no risk of children dying and succumbing to diseases in this country.

Furthermore, the Health Secretary pointed out that there are no acute malnutrition conditions such as marasmus and kwoshiokor.

According to the sources of the World Health Organization, malnutrition refers to deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential nutrients or impaired nutrient utilization. The double burden of malnutrition consists of both undernutrition and overweight and obesity, as well as diet-related noncommunicable diseases. Undernutrition manifests in four broad forms: wasting, stunting, underweight, and micronutrient deficiencies.

Wasting is defined as low weight-for-height. It often indicates recent and severe weight loss, although it can also persist for a long time. It usually occurs when a person has not had food of adequate quality and quantity and/or they have had frequent or prolonged illnesses. Wasting in children is associated with a higher risk of death if not treated properly. Stunting is defined as low height-for-age. It is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poverty, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness and/or inappropriate feeding and care in early life. Stunting prevents children from reaching their physical and cognitive potential. Underweight is defined as low weight-for-age. A child who is underweight may be stunted, wasted or both.

Micronutrient deficiencies are a lack of vitamins and minerals that are essential for body functions such as producing enzymes, hormones and other substances needed for growth and development.

The Secretary said that a recent report published by UNICEF said that Sri Lanka is among the top ten countries with the highest number of malnourished children and the numbers are expected to rise further. But the Ministry does not accept or agree with it. He said that the Health Ministry has taken into account the three main factors that affect malnutrition in children, i.e. shortness, thinness, and weight for height, and UNICEF has published some data in a very old time frame

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