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Malnutrition Rampant Among UAE Children

asmaalizain@khaleejtimes.com Filed on October 12, 2009

DUBAI A significant number of children in the UAE suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition, said 
health experts.

Urging people to take immediate note of malnourishment in children and deploy simple corrective measures, child nutritionists said that “over feeding was not necessarily healthy feeding.”

“Children in the UAE are obese because they are consuming more calories rather than eating a balanced diet, and this is a sign of malnutrition,” said Dr Rita Raman, Professor of Paediatric and Neonatologist, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre.

Quoting World Health Organisation statistics for 2007, the experts said that 17 per cent of children under the age of five in the UAE were chronically malnourished.

“This means they have a stunted growth with an average height and weight lesser than children of the same age elsewhere,” said Dr Mohammed Miqdady, Senior Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterology at Shaikh Khalifa Medical Centre, Abu Dhabi.

“This figure, if compared to the Western countries, is quite high and is also significant compared to other countries in the world,” he said.

For monitoring the average growth of a child, most countries follow charts based on a format created by the world health body that calculates the average height and weight and body mass index according to their age groups.

Currently, the UAE is using outdated charts but will update them this year to include new innovative growth indicators beyond height and weight that can monitor the increasing epidemic of childhood obesity-related problems such as the skin-fold thickness.

“Complete and balanced nutrition early in life is fundamental to healthy growth and development and can prevent development of some chronic diseases later in adulthood such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases,” said Dr Miqdady.

A significant percentage of morbidity and mortality among children is also directly or indirectly related to the nutritional status in children, said the experts who have gathered in Dubai for the first Paediatric Total Nutrition Therapy programme organised by the Emirates Medical Association that aims at raising awareness on paediatric nutritional sciences among paediatricians and caregivers.

“Studies show that simple nutrition interventions such as correct feeding practices and using specialised nutrition therapy can reduce child risks by at least 30 per cent,” said Dr Sanja Kolacek, Head and Professor of Paediatrics, Children’s Hospital Zagreb, Croatia.

The experts also stressed on the benefits of breastfeeding and called for appropriate breaks for lactating working mothers.

asmaalizain@khaleejtimes.ae

author

Asma Ali Zain

Associated with KT for 15 years. Covers health issues, Pakistan community, human interest stories as well as general topics for daily news or features.


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