An important point that comes out of the recent child nutrition survey in the RMI is that the diet and health of caregivers of young children is poor, which is obviously contributing to the poor nutritional status of a large percentage of children from six months to five years of age.
The survey, conducted jointly by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Human Services, not only checked nutrition of young children, but also that of their caregivers in the urban centers and in the outer islands.
The most startling finding is that over one in three children is moderately or severely stunted — which the study describes as “a high public health concern.”
Another key finding is a majority of children (70 percent) in RMI under five did not receive the minimum acceptable diet in both quality and quantity.
This problematic nutrition situation for young children mirrors the situation of their caregivers.
“Dietary practices for caregivers with a child under five was poor in RMI with only 27.4 percent of women meeting minimum dietary diversity,” said the survey report. This means that the majority of women taking care of young children are not eating the range of foods that make up a “healthy diet.” Even in wealthier households, the majority of mothers did not eat the range of food that met the minimum diversity of a healthy diet. Only one-in-seven caregivers ate dark green leafy vegetables and only one in three ate vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables.
Meanwhile, consumption of high calorie, low nutrition value foods was high among caregivers. Two-thirds of caregivers ate food such as cakes, cookies, sugar sweetened drinks and fried snacks.
Although the survey doesn’t state it, the results confirm that adults are largely responsible for the poor nutritional status of their children.
The survey results were summed up: “Poor dietary quality of both children and their caregivers indicates that prevalence of micronutrient deficiency is high and universal.”
Read more about this in the December 29, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.