Nearly half of Guatemalan children suffer malnutrition

February 15th, 2009 - 6:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Guatemala City, Feb 15 (IANS) Nearly half of Guatemala’s children suffer from chronic malnutrition and their physical growth falls below the average established by the World Health Organisation (WHO), according to a study.

The study carried out by the education and health ministries found that 45.6 percent of Guatemalan children suffer from chronic malnutrition, EFE reported Sunday.

The nationwide study in schools has also found that children between the ages of eight and nine were most affected by malnutrition.

Girls suffered the effects of poor nutrition disproportionately, accounting for 60 percent of all cases of children with lower than normal height for their age, the study said.

On an average, Guatemalan girls are between eight and 12 cm shorter than the average set by the WHO.

In rural areas, where poverty levels are highest, the study found that 49.7 percent of children suffer from malnutrition, mainly in the western provinces of Solola and Totonicapan.

The study was conducted in August among 459,808 children at 15,076 public schools across the country. Experts from international organisations assisted the ministries in the study.

Juan Aguilar, head of Guatemalan president’s food security secretariat, told reporters that the lack of adequate food, poverty and a dearth of basic services are the primary causes of this scourge, adding that malnutrition not only limits biological growth among young people but also stunts their ability to learn.

According to official figures, 52 percent of Guatemala’s 13.3 million people live in conditions of poverty or extreme poverty

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