The malnutrition shocker from
understandably, the news that Colombo district has registered an
exceptionally high percentage of malnutrition has shocked many.
Malnutrition is usually causatively linked to poverty and
underdevelopment, but the poser is, how could this ominous
phenomenon emerge in Colombo, of all districts in the country,
since the greatest wealth-creation is also believed to be
centred in Colombo?
Apparently, malnutrition could go hand-in-hand with wealth
and opulence because money alone would not determine the
nutritional content of one’s diet. A person could be wealthy and
have the money-power but could still be very unwise on what he
or she chooses to eat.
This seems to be very much the case, and what is amiss is
adequate education and public awareness on what constitutes a
nutritious, balanced diet. Despite primary school textbooks on
health and hygiene being replete with instructions on what
constitutes a nutritious meal, public awareness of these matters
seems to be woefully lacking.
So, the tasks for the authorities are twofold: one, arrest
the ill-health and connected problems that come in the wake of
malnutrition; two, raise public awareness on the issue of
malnutrition through a sustained awareness - building programme,
aimed at prompting wise choices at the popular level on one’s
food intake. It could be seen that this is quite a chore for the
Health Minister and other relevant authorities who are tasked
with monitoring the health of the nation and ensuring that good
health prevails among the people.
Nevertheless, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena deserves
commendation for being frank about these matters. After all, the
Western Province is touted in some sections as being the most
dynamic wealth-generating region in the country and the news
that the Province is glaringly backward in nutritional and
health matters, is no good news for the government at all. But
the truth should be confronted and this is being done
The other day, the Health Minister also mentioned Nuwara
Eliya as another district which is notorious for malnutrition.
This should not take many by surprise because poverty is no
stranger to Nuwara Eliya. However, the CWC has been with
successive governments and it does speak eloquently for ‘the
work’ the CWC has been helping to carry out in the district, if
malnutrition is rampant in the district. This is an eye-opener
for the CWC and all other parties which are expected to look
after the affairs of the district. The people of Nuwara Eliya,
apparently, are not being cared for sufficiently and this
drawback needs to be remedied.
Something thought-provoking which was mentioned by the Health
Minister in connection with malnutrition in the two districts is
that it is going alongside a huge intake of wheat-based food
items by the public. This is tantamount to saying that
urban-based diets are dominated by starch - a key causative
factor in diabetes which is, of course, now almost an epidemic
in Sri Lanka.
Apparently, this subject of malnutrition is pregnant with
research possibilities. One line of inquiry is that a
predominantly starch-based diet cannot guard against
malnutrition and all the ills it brings. The other is that the
general public is blissfully ignorant as to what a staple,
healthy diet consists of and are recklessly bent on consuming
all the ‘poisons’ that are not at all suitable for them. Another
interesting line of research for nutritionists and other
relevant personnel is that poverty does not necessarily exist in
tandem with malnutrition. For instance, is malnutrition rampant
in the North-Central Province? If so, what is the percentage?
These interests apart, what is glaringly obvious is that
considerable sections of the public are not at all concerned
about their health. Thus, the public needs to be jolted back to
its senses on health matters. This is a crying need.