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Sri Lanka Challenges Lancet Report on Child Malnutrition and Underweight Girls

In response to recent revelations in the British medical journal, The Lancet, regarding child malnutrition and underweight girls, Sri Lanka’s health authorities have dismissed the portrayal of the country presented in the publication.

The Lancet’s study, spanning from 1990 to 2022 and released on February 29, claims that approximately 410,000 girls in Sri Lanka are categorized as underweight, with a prevalence of 16.4%. Despite ongoing efforts to enhance nutrition and healthcare access, the report asserts that there has been no discernible improvement in this concerning statistic since 1990. Furthermore, Sri Lanka is ranked second globally, following India, for the highest prevalence of dangerously underweight girls aged 5 to 19 years.

Conducted by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the study underscores that the situation has remained unchanged over the past three decades. It estimates that, globally, nearly 880 million adults and 159 million children lived with obesity in 2022.

Contrary to Sri Lanka, the research indicates that the prevalence of underweight individuals has decreased in India over the 33-year period from 1990.

Sri Lankan health authorities, however, strongly reject the conclusions drawn by the global report related to the Sri Lankan context. Dr. Palitha Mahipala, Secretary of the Ministry of Health, stated to Daily Mirror that the study’s findings cannot be accepted as they contradict the actual scenario in Sri Lanka. Dr. Chithramalee De Silva, Director of the Family Health Bureau, expressed dissatisfaction with the data used by The Lancet to compile the report.

The latest health ministry report indicates that Sri Lanka witnessed severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 15,763 children (1.2%) in 2023, while 2022 saw 18,420 SAM children (1.4%). It is noteworthy that the Health Ministry had previously rejected a report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on child malnutrition in Sri Lanka.

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