NUTRITIONAL STATUS AND DIETARY INTAKE OF SEMAI INDIGENOUS CHILDREN BELOW FIVE YEARS IN PERAK, PENINSULAR MALAYSIA
The nutrition transition in Malaysia has had profound impact on the nutritional status of national population especially in children below five years. There exists paucity in the data that address the nutritional status of aboriginal children that may impair intervention programme. Hence the study aims to assess and appraise the nutritional status of Semai Orang Asli children under five years and identify the determinants of nutritional status to strengthen baseline data. A total of 340 Semai children (179 males and 161 female children from Perak were recruited for the study. All information pertaining to demographic, socio-economic and educational status were collected using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. All children were subjected to nutritional anthropometry and clinical examination using standard procedures. A one-day dietary record was done on a sub-sample of 140 children between 12 and 59 months. About 32.7% of the Semai children were underweight 28.2% were stunted and 52% showed wasting. Body Mass Index (BMI) revealed 52% of children with moderate to severe thinness. The existence of malnutrition was higher among female children. Twenty-eight percent were identified with any form of nutritional deficiencies and did not meet the Recommended Nutrient Intake for any measured nutrient. Poverty, illiteracy, unavailability of food, location and proximity to procure food, lack of physical activity, poor sanitation and hygiene were the contributors to the poor nutritional status. Nutrition transition has had less or marginal impact on the nutritional status of the indigenous children which calls for immediate action and intervention.
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