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The relationship of malnutrition and anemia to growth, cognitive development and school performance is well recognized in children

The critical features relating to the nutritional status of the Guyanese population are as follows:

1. A significant proportion of children under five years of age suffer from malnutrition (survey data indicate that 14% were underweight for age; 11% had low height for age and 11% had a low weight for height (UNICEF, 2000).
2. Persistently high levels of iron-deficiency anaemia affecting about 48% of young children, 57% of school age children, 41% of adults and 52% of pregnant women (PAHO/CFNI, 1997).

Economic access to food may be a major cause of the nutritional problems in the country. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line up to 1996 was approximately 40%. Therefore a significant number of persons, especially among the Amerindians are likely to be vulnerable to insufficient nutrient intake and hence malnutrition.

A study was done prospectively during two volunteer medical missions by a Canadian team carried out in February 2003 and 2004. The medical team held clinics in Guyana in a rural village, Bartica and surrounding area (population 15,900) and in Amazonian Indian children of the Akawaiu tribe in five villages along the Upper Mazaruni River

RESULTS: In 2004, 376 children less than 18 years of age were evaluated. Height and weight data were available for 259 (69%). 30% were underweight, 41% were stunted and 21% were wasted. These problems were more prevalent in the rural villages. Results in 2003 were similar. The majority of children did not increase in weight-for-age between 2003 and 2004

CONCLUSIONS: This survey of growth and anemia documents a high prevalence of these problems in Guyanese children in a small village and in Amazonian Indian children. Inadequate weight, but not stunting was more often observed in children. Further research is needed to evaluate the effect of genetic vs nutritional factors on growth in this population. It is important to recognize the prevalence of these problems to help children in Guyana improve dietary intake and prevent the consequences of anemia and malnutrition.

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