NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The number of children grappling with various forms of undernutrition in Sri Lanka increased for the first time in at least six years in 2022, a government report and data from the health ministry indicate.

The island nation of 22 million people is struggling with soaring prices, including of food, largely caused by its worst economic crisis since it gained independence in 1948.

More than 43.4% of the country’s children under 5 years of age are suffering from nutrition problems, according to the report released in October, with 42.9% suffering from some form of undernutrition.

GRAPHIC: Setback for child nutrition in Sri Lanka

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Read together with data available on the website of the health ministry’s Family Health Bureau, the numbers indicate that the percentage of children below five who are underweight, stunted, or wasting increased in 2022 after dropping steadily since at least 2016.

Around 1.4 million children under the age of five were registered with the country’s Public Health Midwives body and the report surveyed just under that number.

While 15.3% of the children in the country were found to be underweight as compared to 12.2% last year, 10.1% were suffering from wasting, and 9.2% from stunted growth, the report says.

In 2021, 8.2% of children below five were found to be wasting away while 7.4% had stunted growth.

“In 2022, percentages of children under 5 years with any form of undernutrition (growth faltering, underweight, wasting and stunting) has increased compared to 2021,” the report says.

“This trend is seen in all age categories (infant, 1-2 years, 2-5 years) and in all three sectors (urban, rural & estate),” it added.

(Reporting by Sakshi Dayal; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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