Business Times

Malnutrition could affect future human resources

A former Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) is urging President Mahinda Rajapaksa to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee to address potential risks of malnutrition impacting sustainable future economic development in Sri Lanka.

In a letter addressed to the President dated 6 June 2010, Chandra Jayaratne said the findings of a government initiated Nutrition and Food Security Survey (NFSS) 2009 conducted by the MRI and supported by UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, raise alarm bells as to the possible impact on human resources of the future.
According to the survey results, Dr. Jayaratne said anemia was found in 25% of children, likely impacting their future growth and cognitive development capacities.

The survey also found that a significant extent of children is impacted by acute malnutriion and stunting. He added that at the other extreme, there is also a small but increasing segment of children impacted by obesity. It appears that leading medical specialists and nutritionists have expressed opinions on the gravity of the situation and the need for urgent, well planned and effectively executed response action to avoid a sick nation with poorly endowed human resources comprising the workforce of Sri Lanka in the future.

Dr. Jayaratne said there is an urgent need for awareness building amongst the heads and members of households on the composition of a balanced diet, on ingredients and nutrition information and national education curriculum and school extra curricular programmes targeting school going children on the need for a balanced diet.

He also said it requires manufacturers and importers to effectively label and correctly represent the composition ingredients and nutrition value of products marketed, with even caution sticker labeling of ‘junk food’.

He added there is also a need to review the duty/cess and other taxation policy based impact on prices of essential food commodities versus non essential foods based on nutrition values and the review of the delivery effectiveness and targeting of food subsidies and food supplements.

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