KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) has launched a public awareness programme on child nutrition to combat increasing child stunting in Malaysia, where one in five are stunted.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that Malaysia is facing problems of stunting among under-five children and rising obesity in adults, dubbed the double burden of malnutrition.
The prevalence of child stunting in Malaysia among children under five years of age increased from 17.2 per cent in 2006 to 21.8 per cent in 2019.
Malaysia’s child stunting prevalence of 21.8 per cent exceeds the 8.2 per cent rate in upper middle income countries.
Khairy noted that child stunting, caused by an insufficiently nutritious diet, has been recorded across the country, with the highest rates reported in the east coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pahang, and Malaysia’s administrative centre of Putrajaya in the Klang Valley.
“Child stunting crosses all socio-demographic categories, whether urban or rural, household income, ethnic group, occupation, and education level,” Khairy said at the launch of the #AnakMalaysiaSihat media programme in Putrajaya yesterday.
“The protracted Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impact on the people is expected to increase nutrition problems among children, especially children from low-income families.”
Stunting affects a child’s psychomotor, psychological, and social development, as well as their IQ and EQ (emotional quotient). Stunted children have a weak immune system and are vulnerable to disease.
Over the long term, Khairy noted that stunted children would suffer intellectual deficiencies that could affect learning in school, besides having a higher risk for obesity compared to children of normal height, if their diets are uncontrolled and they do not do enough physical exercise.
Yesterday, the government’s Special Committee to Combat the Double Burden of Malnutrition Among Children in Malaysia – comprising MOH; the Education Ministry; the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry; and the National Unity Ministry – held its first meeting.
The #AnakMalaysiaSihat media programme, a strategic collaboration between the MOH and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), seeks to raise public awareness about child stunting and to highlight nutritious diets for children in the first 1,000 days of their life.
The media programme provides information – through a website, social media, a docudrama on TV Alhijrah, and public service announcements on TV and radio – on health, diet, food preparation, and household financial management throughout a child’s first 1,000 days of life.
MOH’s National Strategic Plan to Combat Stunting among Children in Malaysia 2022-2030 covers four phases from 2022 to 2030.
Its five strategies across eight years comprise food governance through legislation, political commitment, and stakeholder participation; increasing quality and access to health care to fight stunting; creating a conducive environment for child wellbeing; and advocacy for healthy diets for children.
According to #AnakMalaysiaSihat, the first 1,000 days of life are crucial in a child’s development, requiring healthy diets for both pregnant mother and child.