Monday, January 8, 2024

Kiddo Food Bank Programme Launch

8 Oct 2023

The rising issue of child stunting in Malaysia has reached a critical juncture, demanding immediate attention and action. Recent data reveals that child stunting rates have surged from 17.1 percent in 2015 to an alarming 21.2 percent in 2022, according to the 2022 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS). This rate significantly overshadows the 11.0 percent target set under the National Plan of Action for Nutrition Malaysia (NPANM) 2016-2025.

The situation in Malaysia becomes even more concerning when compared to neighbouring countries. Malaysia's stunting rate of 21.9 percent, as reported in the Joint UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Estimates of Child Malnutrition for 2023, is higher than that of Singapore (3.0 percent), China (4.6 percent), Thailand (11.8 percent), and even Sri Lanka (15.9 percent), which is grappling with a financial crisis. It's imperative to note that this rate also surpasses that of Vietnam (19.3 percent) and Ukraine (12.3 percent), a nation plagued by violent conflict. In regional comparisons, Malaysia's stunting rate closely aligns with Cambodia (22.3 percent) and Myanmar (24.1 percent), while remaining lower than India (31.7 percent), Indonesia (31.0 percent), and the Philippines (28.8 percent).

The Puchong Parliament has taken a proactive stance in addressing this pressing issue by collecting data from various sources, including health screenings, health clinics, and Kemas kindergartens. Their findings highlight the severity of the problem, with 35.0 percent of children screened at health screenings experiencing stunting. Furthermore, in the Puchong Parliament constituency, 109 children under the age of 6 who visited local health clinics were found to be malnourished. Additionally, 89 children at Kemas Kindergartens were identified as malnourished. In the People's Housing Program apartments in urban areas within the Puchong Parliament constituency, one in every two children suffers from stunted growth, a rate higher than that in rural housing areas and Kuala Lumpur's People's Housing Program apartments.

The Puchong Parliament acknowledges the detrimental impact of stunting on children, families, and the nation as a whole. Stunting can hinder cognitive development, impede learning, and lead to future employment and wage disparities. Studies have shown that adults who experienced stunting as children earn 20 percent lower wages and face greater job market challenges. This issue extends beyond individual lives; it can negatively affect the job market, social development, and the nation's overall economic performance. For every centimetre of adult height gained, there is a 5 percent increase in wages. According to a study by the World Bank conducted by Galasso and Wagstaff, countries grappling with stunting experience an average loss of 7 percent in per capita income. Furthermore, stunting increases the risk of chronic diseases and premature death in adulthood, placing added strain on the public healthcare system.

In response to these challenges, the Puchong Parliament is proud to announce the launch of the Kiddo Food Bank Programme. This groundbreaking initiative aims to combat child stunting and inform future policies that will be discussed in the parliament.

The Kiddo Food Bank Program will distribute powdered milk to stunting children, as fortified milk plays a crucial role in supporting their growth. Powdered milk is rich in essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, milk fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, which are essential for strengthening bones.The program goes beyond mere food aid; it places significant emphasis on addressing the root causes of stunting. It will provide education on caregiving practices and nutrition to parents, recognizing the importance of holistic support. The program also plans to collaborate with app developers to leverage technology in addressing child malnutrition and stunting, effectively overcoming the challenges faced by other programs.

The Kiddo Food Bank Program will focus on the first 1,000 days of a child's life, a period critical for brain and body development. During this time, children have the potential to reach their full height and potential, regardless of their background or ethnicity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), if stunting is not detected and addressed within the first 1,000 days of life, its impact can be lifelong.This initiative will primarily target children aged 1 to 6 who have not yet entered school and have fallen through the cracks of existing programs like the Supplementary Food Program (RMT) and School Milk Program (PSS), which cater to 7-year-olds in schools.

The Puchong Parliament calls upon all stakeholders, including governmental bodies, civil society, and concerned citizens, to join hands in tackling this pressing issue. By addressing child stunting today, we secure a brighter, healthier future for our children and our nation.