Friday, November 13, 2009

More than 50% children in Rwanda are stunted

By RNA Reporter
November 13, 2009

Kigali: More than half of children in the country are not having normal growth due to malnutrition placing Rwanda among the 10 countries most affected globally, even worse off compared to war ravaged DR Congo, according to the UN children agency.

Prevalence of moderate and severe stunting among children under 5 years old is now 51 percent, UNICEF said in a new report, which also lists 18 countries that are grappling with more than 45% of their children stunted.

The situation means the height of these children is less than it should be for their age, and others have weight that is not compatible to their height. However, experts say having sufficient quantities of food does not mean there cannot be malnutrition.

This report released Wednesday comes following another published in Kigali last week through a joint government-donors initiative which said more Rwandan households have enough to eat, but a staggering half of young children are still suffering from malnutrition.

Malnourished infants and toddlers could have serious implications for the country future as it moves towards a knowledge-based economy under its Vision 2020 development plan.

“The brain of children develop very fast between the age of zero and three years, and when they are malnourished during this phase there are irreversible [damages] which prevent these children to acquiring fundamental psycho-social and development skills, said Dr. Joseph Foumbi, the UNICEF representative in Rwanda last week during the report launch.

If this happens it would be difficult to have children who would be skilled enough to have Rwanda meet Vision 2020 targets. UNICEF says though the malnourished children suffer from other sicknesses such as wasting or underweight, stunting remains a problem of greater magnitude.

Nutrition problems are often unnoticed until they reach a severe level, but are said to carry consequences of enormous magnitude such as: growth impediment, impaired learning ability and, later in life, low work productivity.

Compared to its regional neighbors, DR Congo which has millions of people displaced from years of war and neglect has just 46 percent of its children being stunted. Some 53 percent children in Burundi are said to be faced with this situation.

The agency said approximately 200 million children under the age of five in the developing world suffer from stunted growth as a result of chronic maternal and childhood under nutrition. More than 90 per cent of these stunted children live in Africa and Asia.

Future generations are in jeopardy unless urgent efforts are made to tackle under nutrition, says UNICEF in the global report released in New York.

Stunted growth is a consequence of longer-term poor nutrition in early childhood. Stunting is associated with developmental problems and is often impossible to correct, experts say.

A child who is stunted is likely to experience a lifetime of poor health and underachievement, so the answer lies in prevention.

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