KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid has questioned a recent Unicef report that found a high rate of stunted growth among the children of Malaysia’s urban poor, Malaysian media reports said.
“Based on our own study, the extent is not to a point where there are students who have no food to eat at all,” he added, when answering a question by opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai Nurul Izzah Anwar in Parliament on Tuesday (March 13).
The United Nations body recently reported that children living in low-cost housing or People’s Housing Projects (PPRs) in Kuala Lumpur face high rates of poverty and malnutrition compared with the national average.
Titled “Children without: A study of urban child poverty and deprivation in low-cost flats in Kuala Lumpur”, the Unicef study also noted that poverty impairs the education opportunities of children living in low-cost flats. This makes them more vulnerable to malnourishment, potentially stunting them physically and damaging their cognitive development, it added.
Mr Mahdzir also took issue with the study for comparing the situation faced by the country’s children to those of children in Ghana. According to the report, in terms of stunting, Malaysian children performed worse than Ghana, despite its GDP per capita being six times higher.
“I don’t know how the (Unicef) report could be published, comparing us to Ghana. We can see for ourselves, our students, if you compare them to Ghana in terms of food, we give food to all (needy) children,” he was quoted saying by the Malaysiakini news website.