MALAYSIA isn’t dealing with a meals safety disaster however what we do have is a dietary disaster.
In keeping with “The State of Meals Safety and Diet within the World 2019” report by the Meals and Agriculture Group of the United Nations, the prevalence of stunting amongst youngsters underneath 5 years of age in Malaysia in 2018 was 20.7%, larger than in Ghana, which got here in at 18.eight%, Sri Lanka (17.three%) and Thailand (10.5%).
“These are statistics that we shouldn’t be having. We had much less stunting 30 years in the past than we do now. We have now a scenario the place the poorest segments in Malaysia are malnourished as a result of they’ll’t afford greens and fruits, and we don’t give any incentives for our farmers to develop nutritious meals.
“And that impacts mind growth and stunting, the place youngsters by no means attain full top. Our fee is sort of the identical as Sub-Saharan Africa. Do we’ve got a meals safety disaster in Malaysia? Most likely not. Do we’ve got a dietary disaster? Completely,” says Prof Sayed Azam-Ali, CEO of Crops for the Future Analysis Centre (CFFRC).
The Khazanah Analysis Institute (KRI) report “Addressing Malnutrition in Malaysia” — authored by Visiting Senior Fellow Prof Wan Abdul Manan Wan Muda, analysis adviser Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram and analysis affiliate Tan Zhai Gen — says rural households in Malaysia have larger charges of underweight and stunting than their city counterparts.
“In 2016, Kelantan had the best fee of stunting at 34% of kids 5 years and beneath, adopted by Terengganu at 26.1% and Pahang at 25.7%, however the enhance in Pulau Pinang was highest amongst all states, greater than doubling from 2006 to 2016, adopted by Kelantan with an 83% enhance,” the report says.
The report additionally states that Malaysia has turn out to be the fattest nation in Southeast Asia and is sixth within the Asia-Pacific.
The prevalence of weight problems amongst Malaysians youthful than 18 elevated from 5.four% in 2006 to 11.9% in 2015. For adults aged 18 and above, the proportion of the chubby nearly doubled in 10 years from 16.6% in 1996 to 29.1% in 2006, earlier than rising barely to 30% in 2015. General, the proportion of the overweight additionally elevated from four.5% in 1996 to 17.7% in 2015, a four-fold enhance over 19 years.
Sayed says this phenomena is principally seen within the city inhabitants, on account of their dietary preferences. “That is the inhabitants that eats extra processed and calorie-rich meals. So, as a substitute of being nutritionally wholesome, they’re chubby and we’re seeing weight problems and micronutrient deficiency,” he says.
Addressing micronutrient deficiency
Micronutrients, in keeping with the KRI report, are vitamins solely wanted in minuscule portions. These are sometimes nutritional vitamins, minerals and hint components, all substances that allow the physique to provide enzymes, hormones and different substances important for regular progress and growth.
“Micronutrient deficiencies are troublesome to detect as their indicators and signs will not be very manifest compared with different types of undernutrition and overnutrition. A toddler could also be affected by delicate micronutrient deficiencies with out exhibiting anatomical or medical signs to the bare eye, besides by biochemical evaluation of the blood or urine,” says KRI.
The report provides that the issue of micronutrient deficiencies or “hidden starvation” in Malaysia has not acquired a lot consideration within the media as in contrast with extra visually conspicuous issues equivalent to weight problems and stunting amongst youngsters.
When met by The Edge on the launch of the KRI report, Jomo says a concerted effort must be taken by the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Well being and Ministry of Training to deal with this downside.
“First, we have to perceive that meals safety doesn’t imply rice self-sufficiency. From a diet viewpoint, consuming rice alone isn’t good for you, so we actually have to do far more. We have to discover various sources of vitamins. In reality, we do have such sources however nobody is producing them in giant sufficient portions,” he says. “As an alternative, we’re permitting giant meals corporations to dictate what our meals necessities are, which is a giant mistake. So what we have to do is for the agriculture ministry, which additionally performs the position of ministry of meals, to work carefully with the Ministry of Well being and Ministry of Training. For instance, college feeding programmes will not be simply in regards to the meals however creating consciousness among the many rakyat about what they’re consuming, and why they’re consuming what they’re consuming, and this has implications for future generations.”
“Proper now, we’ve got a tradition the place when a baby is chubby, we are saying the kid is wholesome. That was comprehensible at a time when there was lots of losing (low weight) within the nation. At present, it doesn’t make sense. So we have to educate our individuals, however sadly, that isn’t taking place,” he says.
Sayed concurs that there needs to be coordination between the ministries to deal with the difficulty of nutrient deficiency.
“We have now to take a look at the nationwide image. Each time we produce overweight youngsters in addition to malnourished, stunted youngsters, the federal government is paying the invoice with hospital admissions as a result of diet isn’t a part of the agriculture agenda.
“The Ministry of Well being must ask the Ministry of Agriculture, why are we not making wholesome meals a precedence in each college and grocery store?
“The schooling ministry’s college feeding programmes ought to prioritise nutritious meals and the substances for the programmes needs to be sourced regionally so that there’s a assured marketplace for our farmers. This may encourage them to develop nutritious crops.
“We should always have this sort of joined-up pondering, as a result of if [the] agriculture [sector] produces nutritious meals, the well being ministry doesn’t have to spend a lot to deal with well being points,” he says.