Child malnutrition reduced significantly

Ha Noi, October 6, (VNA) -- The Ministry of Public Health has announced a week entitled "For the Children's Futures: Rapid Reduction of the Child Malnutrition Rate" from Oct. 16 to 23, aimed at bringing the malnutrition rate among kids under five years old down from 36.7 percent last year to less than 34 percent by the end of this year.

The week will see massive campaigns and drives to mobilise the entire society's active participation in grassroots primary healthcare programmes, especially in rural areas, in the interest of mothers and children as well as expand a family-sized farming model of VAC (Vietnamese initials for Gardening, Fish Ponds and Pigsty) so as to add enough nutritious food to the child's meals.

It is part of the 1995-2000 National Plan of Action for Nutrition.

The original plan, approved by the Prime Minister in 1995, called for the reduction of child malnutrition to less than 30 percent by 2000. That target was, however, adjusted in 1998 to 34 percent owing to the effects of consecutive natural disasters and financial shortages.

After five years of operation, the programme has helped bring the rate down from 45 percent in 1995 to 36.7 percent last year, or more than 2 percent annually. Leading in the term were Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Noi, the central coastal province of Da Nang and the Mekong delta province of Long An, each of which had rates no more than 30 percent.

Activities to improve micronutrition among children have also been expanded nationwide in an effort to eliminate conditions caused by shortages of Vitamin A and iodine in the diet, as called for in the original plan.

To that end, the programme has also targeted poor families, successfully bringing the poverty rate down by 2 percent a year to 13 percent currently and, hopefully, to 11 percent by the end of this year.

Also part of the programme, 60 percent of the urban population and 40 percent of those in rural areas now have access to safe water supplies. The Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI) has also helped reduce the morbidity and mortality rates of vaccine-preventable childhood diseases by between six and 10 times over the past five years. The achievements have contributed to a reduction of the under 5 mortality rate to 42 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1999 from 50 per thousand in 1995. The infant mortality rate has also dropped to 36.7 per thousand from 43.3 per thousand.

Still more achievements in these fields are expected in the next five years as the National Plan of Action on Nutrition for the 2001-2005 period comes into effect.