KUALA LUMPUR: Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (pic) has questioned the recent Unicef report that found there is a high rate of stunted growth among the children of Malaysia’s urban poor.“I am not sure how the Unicef report is able to make a comparison between students in Malaysia and Ghana when our food programmes reach both urban and rural students,” he said.“Based on our own study, the extent is not to a point where there are students who have no food to eat at all,” he added when answering a question by Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR-Lembah Pantai) during Minister’s Question Time in Dewan Rakyat Tuesday.Nurul Izzah had asked if the ministry will carry out a study to address the problem of malnourished children among the urban poor.
While the national poverty rate is less than 1%, the Unicef report indicated that 99.7% of children in low-cost flats live in relative poverty and 7% in absolute poverty.The study also found that 15% of children below the age of five are underweight while 22% of children are stunted, almost two times higher compared with the KL average.About 23% of the children are either overweight or obese, nearly six times higher compared with the KL average of 4%.It also found that while almost all of the children aged seven to 17 are in school, only 50% of five- to six-year-olds attend pre-school compared with the national enrolment of 92% in 2015.About one in three households surveyed had no reading materials for children aged below 18, while about four in 10 households have no toys for children aged below five. Earlier in Parliament Tuesday, Mahdzir told the House that 458,483 primary schoolchildren out of some two million nationwide will receive food under the 1Malaysian Supplementary Food Programme this year.
“Students in Peninsula Malaysia are provided food amounting to RM2.50 a day while those in Sabah and Sarawak get RM3. Some RM250mil has been set aside this year for the programme covering 190 schooling days,” he said.Mahdzir said the food programme is also provided to some 40,948 SRJK(C) and 20,620 SRJK(T) primary school students.Since 2014, Mahdzir said that some 2.6 million primary school students have benefited from the programme.To a question by Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (BN-Baling), Mahdzir said that there are other healthcare programmes in schools, which include regular teeth checks, eye examinations and physical tests.-STAR