Over 45 per cent of women in Sri Lanka are overweight or obese indicating a serious double burden of malnutrition within the adult population, the UNICEF yesterday said.
Following a three-day regional conference on actions to accelerate improvements in women’s nutrition across South Asia held in Kathmandu the SAARC and UNICEF, it said many adolescents and women had also faced serious obstacles in meeting their right to health and nutrition.
UNICEF Director in South Asia Jean Gough said gaps in national policies, programmes and care services during pregnancy, combined with poverty and customary practices mean that women had failed to receive the nutritional care they need for a healthy pregnancy.
“Essential nutrition services, including dietary counselling and iron-folic acid supplements,are reaching too few women during pregnancy. Underlying causes include the under-investment in maternal health services,the low prioritization of nutrition services,and the low reach of care for pregnant women,” the UNICEF said.
“Pregnant and breastfeeding women need better nutrition to protect children from stunting and disease. The progress on improving nutritional care of women in South Asia during and after pregnancy is slow, impacting on their children’s survival, growth and development,” he said.
It said over one-third of the world’s anaemic women live in South Asia, and no country was on track to meet the global nutrition target to reduce anaemia by 50 per cent women by 2025. In Sri Lanka, nearly 32 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic.
“Children who are born small due to poor maternal nutrition start life at a huge disadvantage. They are more likely to become wasted or stunted in early life, do less well at school, earn lower wages in adulthood and suffer diabetes and chronic heart diseases later in life,” it said.
SAARC Secretary General saidAmjad Hussain Sial said women's nutrition required special attention and the governments should look at how they could provide healthy diet and lifestyle options. “We must strive towards a collective effort that involves health providers, community based workers, families, schools and mothers themselves,” he said.