The latest report by the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the General Statistics Office has found higher rates of obesity among children and women.
The number of overweight and obese children under five has increased more than six-fold from between 2000 and 2009, said the report, based on a national study in 2009 on mothers and their children's nutrition. Rates have risen from 0.86 to 5.7 percent in rural areas and from 0.5 to 4.2 percent in cities.
Figures recorded in 2009 showed that, since 2000, the amount of overweight mothers has increased from 3 percent to 5.8 percent among those with children below five and from 4.6 percent to 7.9 percent for women aged between 15 and 49 years old.
Fast food, a lack of time and space for exercise, a lack of direct care from parents and parents' failure to feed their children nutritious food, were blamed for the present situation.
According to the study, obesity occurred later in rural areas but the number of obese children has surged faster than that in cities.
The report explained that children in rural areas watch too much television and that their parents are ignorant to nutrition and diet, thinking that children should eat as much as possible.
Meanwhile, during the same period, malnutrition among children has dropped from 36.7 percent to 18.9 percent, and from 26.7 percent to 19.4 percent among mothers of children under five.
However, 30 percent of children are still short for their age, the study found. It also pointed out that children were not getting enough vitamins and minerals.
Le Thi Hop, head of the National Institute of Nutrition, was quoted by local news website VTCNews on June 1 as saying that children under five were only getting 49 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A.
The World Health Organization lists Vietnam among the top 19 countries with the highest rate of vitamin A deficiency more than 10 percent in children under five. A lack of vitamin A increases risks of contagious diseases, death and slow growth in children.
Furthermore, according to the study, children gain only 76 percent of the recommended daily allowance of iron, leading to anemia among 29.2 percent of children under five.
MOTHERS TO PICK UP CHILD REARING SKILLS
UNDER NEW PLAN
About five million Vietnamese mothers nationwide will be trained in raising and educating their children under a five-year plan to improve children's health and protect them from social evils and crimes.
Mothers with children 16 years and below will learn about ways to avoid undernourishment, diseases and child mortality. They will also help prevent children from committing crimes and other violations of the law, according to the plan approved recently by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
The first stage of the plan will be implemented through 2012 in 14 provinces [two communes in each province], and the second stage will be applied in all 63 cities and provinces. Funding for the plan, which is yet to be earmarked, will be taken from the government budget.
All women with children 16 years and below as well as their children are the direct targets, while fathers and other family members are indirect targets of the plan which aims to improve children's rights and promote "happy, progressive, equal and prosperous families."
By 2015, it is expected that three million of the five million mothers trained under the plan will be able to apply them properly. At least 1.5 million teenagers will hopefully attain knowledge of reproductive health and other skills to overcome difficulties in daily life.