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Monday, 9 October, 2000, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Vietnam's children suffer obesity
Child
The Vietnamese Government encourages smaller families
By Owen Bennett-Jones in Hanoi

Researchers in Vietnam say they have evidence that an increasing number of children in the country are suffering from obesity.

The Centre for Nutrition in Ho Chi Minh City has found that 12.5% of children in the city are obese and that the figure is rising.

Researchers found that obesity is most common amongst children from families with either high incomes or relatively few children.

The Vietnamese Government encourages families to have no more than two children and it is thought that this has resulted in parents devoting ever more attention to the offspring they do have.

Rural malnutrition

Ho Chi Minh City
Boom town: Vietnam's economic capital Ho Chi Minh City
The research found cases of young children eating four meals of rice and meat every day washed down by a steady supply of fizzy drinks.

But while some children in Vietnam are obese, many more, especially in rural areas, are malnourished.

The government has just announced a plan to try to reduce the child malnutrition rate to 34% by the end of this year.

Originally it had a more ambitious target but its plans were knocked off course by a series of natural disasters, like this year's flooding in the Mekong Delta.

Rich-poor gap

Nevertheless, substantial progress has been made.

According to official figures, just five years ago nearly half of Vietnamese children were malnourished.

The economic reforms in Vietnam have led to an increasing gap between rich and poor.

But the general improvement in economic performance means that while obesity rates are increasing, the number of children suffering from malnutrition is declining.

On current projections, even getting the number of children suffering from the lack of a proper diet down to below 15% will take another 20 years.

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See also:

23 May 00 | Health
China battles obesity
20 Mar 00 | Health
'Diet dust' hope for obese
20 Aug 99 | Health
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29 Mar 99 | Health
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