Sri Lanka Health Ministry rejects UNICEF report on child malnutrition

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry has rejected the recent report by the UNICEF on child malnutrition in Sri Lanka which ranks the island nation 6th due to underweight children under five years of age, and 2nd among the countries facing severe malnutrition in South Asia.

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.

According to the national level survey conducted by the Medical Research Institute in the end of 2021, it has been confirmed that the malnutrition status of children under 5 years of age in Sri Lanka has decreased by 13.2 percent, while the UNICEF report which claims that the malnutrition status of children has greatly increased based on long-term data is incorrect, Health Ministry Secretary Janaka Chandragupta said.

The official also said that to calculate malnutrition status three factors – stunting, wasting and weight for height should be considered for a short time period but the UNICEF has prepared an incorrect report based on wasting alone and using a long time period.

He added that the UNICEF has compared the data of the surveys conducted in different years for each country and for Sri Lanka data from surveys over a long period of time from 1995 to 2019 have been compared.

He pointed out that the UNICEF report have taken the demographic and health survey data of 2016 and considered 15 percent thinness for the country.

“Unlike other countries, there is no risk of death and disease among children in Sri Lanka due to emaciation, and there is no risk of acute malnutrition such as marasmus or kwashiorkor. When considering long-term malnutrition, Sri Lanka is better than African countries in terms of nutrition,” he said.

The official explained that In order to calculate the level of malnutrition in this country, the Ministry of Health collects rural data, social background as well as health data and family health offices collect all related data and calculate the malnutrition status, but the statement made by UNICEF without a base year is incorrect.

“There is no malnutrition among children in our country like in African countries. Our country ranks 70th among the top 150 countries in terms of height” he said.

“But for future food security, we have prepared an emergency nutrition plan which was presented last July. Accordingly, we have paid special attention to the nutritional needs of pregnant mothers and small children and the Ministry of Health is fully responsible in this regard,” the Secretary further said.

Director of the South Asian region of the UNICEF George Larry Adje, who was on a visit to the country recently, stated that Sri Lanka is the second most undernourished country in South Asia.

He pointed out that due to the increase in the cost of living that has occurred with the economic crisis in the country, the diet of the people has been severely affected and he stated that the reason for this is the increase in food prices day by day.

Accordingly, UNICEF said that many families in Sri Lanka are skipping daily meals and not getting a nutritious meal and not being able to buy food are the main reasons.

Meanwhile, the Government Medical Officers’ Association says that if the statement made by UNICEF on child malnutrition in Sri Lanka is rejected, then the Ministry of Health should submit official figures in this regard.

Dr. Chamil Wijesinghe, the media spokesperson of the association, said that although different parties presented different statistics, it can be clearly observed that the people of this country are facing a problem in terms of food supply.


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