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Feed the children

Publication Date : 22-05-2012


Next time you leave some food on your plate spare a thought for the millions of rural children who don't get enough to eat.

At least 10 million pre-school students are physically underdeveloped because of malnutrition. This should be a national concern given its two decades of galloping economic growth.

Despite substantial improvements in people's health and well-being since the early 1980s, under-nutrition among rural children remains a silent emergency. Chronic malnutrition, or the lack of adequate nutrition over time, causes three times as many child deaths as food scarcity.

The government has been replacing many village schools with boarding schools during the past decade, as it believes this improves the quality of schools and is a more effective use of its resources. But many rural boarding schools can't offer quality meals or don't have canteens. As a result, many of the students don't get adequate lunch.

A disturbing report by the Council for the Promotion of Chinese Students' Nutrition and Health revealed 47.6 per cent of rural children have only two meals a day and 66.4 per cent of them go to school on an empty stomach. One-third of rural students don't have meat and two thirds can't afford eggs. Some children are so poor that they only have porridge with preserved vegetables or just rice with salt for lunch.

Protein, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies exacerbate poor living conditions to undermine the health and well-being of rural children.

Various measures are urgently needed to address this issue. The government should invest in building canteens for rural boarding schools. Also it is necessary to educate mothers about the importance of incorporating healthy foods into their children's meals.

Every child deserves a healthy start in life and action must be taken now to ensure that children in rural areas are properly nourished. Access to food is the most basic yardstick to measure people's welfare.

It is time to stop putting this issue on the back burner.


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