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Prensa Latina

The existence in the developing world of 146 million children under five underweight contrasts with the reality of Cuban children, recognized worldwide for not being part of this social evil.

Alarming figures appeared in a recent report by the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF), entitled Progress for Children, a report on Nutrition, launched by the UN headquarters.

The report said the percentage of underweight children is 28 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 17 in the Middle East and North Africa, 15 in East Asia and the Pacific and seven in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The picture is completed by Central and Eastern Europe, 5 percent, and other developing countries, with 27 percent.

Cuba has no such problems, and is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean that eliminated severe child malnutrition, thanks to government efforts to improve the nutrition of people, especially the most vulnerable.

The harsh realities of the world show that 852 million people suffer from hunger and that 53 million of them live in Latin America. There are 5.2 million malnourished persons in Mexico and in Haiti, three million 800 thousand, while in the whole world more than five million children die of hunger every year.

According to UN estimates, it would be very expensive to get basic health and nutrition for all peoples of the Third World.

However, it would be enough to meet the goal with 13 billion dollars per year in addition to what is intended now, a figure that was never achieved and it is tiny compared to the trillions that are spent annually on advertising, the 400 billion turnover by selling drugs or up to eight billion that are spent on cosmetics in the United States.

For the satisfaction of Cuba, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also recognized that this is the country with the greatest progress in Latin America in the fight against malnutrition.

The Cuban state guarantees a basic basket that allows the feeding of its population, at least at the basic levels, through a network of distribution of regulated products.

Similarly, economic adjustments are made in other markets and local services to improve the nutrition of the Cuban people and alleviate food shortages. An especially constant vigilance remains on the lives of children and adolescents. Thus, attention to nutrition starts with the promotion of a better and natural nutrition of the human species.

From the first days of life the numerous benefits of motherly breast feeding justify all the efforts made in Cuba for health and development during childhood.

That has helped to increase the percentage of newborns who survive until the fourth month of life, exclusive breast feeding and even the continued consumption of milk supplemented with other foods until six months old.

Actually, Cuba has 99 percent of newborns discharged from hospitals, with exclusive motherly breast feeding, higher than the target of 95 percent, according to official data, which indicates that all provinces met this goal.

Despite difficult economic conditions experienced by the island, it provides guaranteed food and nutrition for children through the daily delivery of a liter of milk to all children from zero up to seven years old.

Adding to that is the delivery of other foods such as jams, juices and meats, which, depending on economic availability for the country, are equitably distributed to children at younger ages.

Until the age of 13, the priority is the distribution of subsidized complementary products such as soy yogurt, and during natural disasters, children are protected by the free distribution of basic foods.

Children

Children incorporated into Circles (nurseries) and primary schools also benefit from the continuing effort to improve their diets in terms of dietary components of milk and protein.

With the support of agricultural production, even in conditions of severe drought, and increased imports of food, nutrient intake exceeds standards set by FAO.

In Cuba, this indicator is the fictional average sum of food consumption by the rich and the hungry.

Moreover, social consumption includes school meals which are distributed free to hundreds of thousands of students and education workers, with special food quotas for children up to 15 years and people over 60 in the eastern provinces.

On this list pregnant women are covered, lactating mothers, elderly and those with special needs, food supplements for children with low weight and small size, and a source of food for the municipalities in Pinar del Rio, Havana and the Ilha da Juventude (Island of Youth).

These institutions were hit by hurricanes last year, while the provinces of Holguin, Las Tunas and Camagüey and five counties are facing drought.

This effort helps the World Food Programme (WFP), which contributes to improving the nutritional status of vulnerable populations in the east, where more than 631,000 people benefit.

WFP's cooperation with Cuba dates back to 1963, when the agency provided immediate assistance to victims of Hurricane Flora. Until that date, five development projects and 14 emergency operations were held in the country

 


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