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Policies targeting youth malnutrition would save 230,000 children in Vietnam annually: UNICEF

Policies targeting youth malnutrition would save 230,000 children in Vietnam annually: UNICEF

Friday, May 20, 2022, 10:24 GMT+7
Policies targeting youth malnutrition would save 230,000 children in Vietnam annually: UNICEF
A Vietnamese child with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is measured with MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference) tape by a healthcare worker in Ha Tinh Province, north-central Vietnam. Photo: UNICEF

Including examinations of and treatment for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children in a revision of Vietnam’s Law on Medical Examination and Treatment would save the lives of 230,000 children each year, according to Rana Flowers, UNICEF representative in Vietnam.

In a press release on Wednesday, UNICEF provided evidence of increasingly widespread malnutrition in children around the globe, including in Vietnam.

Over 230,000 Vietnamese children under five years old suffer from SAM each year, according to a 2009 national nutrition survey.

The most visible and lethal type of malnutrition is wasting and severe wasting – conditions where an individual weighs far below what is healthy for their height, resulting in weakened immune systems and potentially ending in death, UNICEF warned.

Globally, at least 13.6 million children under five years old suffer from severe wasting, causing one out of every five deaths in this age group, the agency said.

Vietnam has created a good enabling environment for SAM prevention and treatment, but there are neither policies nor funds identified in central or local budgets for Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM) interventions, UNICEF representative Flowers commented.

Consequently, 90 percent of SAM cases are untreated, Flowers said, stressing that now is the time for the Southeast Asian nation to take action to include examinations and treatments for SAM in children in a revision of the Law on Medical Examination and Treatment.

“Otherwise, these children face the risk of dying from a disease that can be easily prevented and treated,” the UNICEF representative warned.

Vietnam can prevent these unnecessary deaths by providing children with SAM with the healthcare and treatment they need to survive, thrive, and develop to their full potential, Flowers remarked.

“By incorporating and specifying the use of therapeutic nutrition products for treatment for children with SAM into the amendment of laws that are being reviewed now, Vietnam will pave the way to save the lives of an estimated 230,000 children every year,” Flowers said.

Vietnam has prioritized nutrition policies, and prevention and treatment of children with SAM as a key objective for its 2021 - 30 National Nutrition Strategy, as well as its National Targeted Programs, UNICEF commented.

Listed as a disease in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases, malnutrition is both preventable and treatable.

Given the close links between SAM, growth stunting, and mortality, timely interventions aimed at the prevention and treatment of the malnutrition will help to further reduce both child mortality and stunting.

As a nationwide expansion of this intervention requires funding for the management and treatment of children with SAM, every country, including Vietnam, should include treatment for child wasting in their health insurance program, as well as long-term development funding schemes aimed at granting all children access to life-saving treatment programs, UNICEF recommended.

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Vinh Tho / Tuoi Tre News

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