Letter: Hunger in Sri Lanka

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The Independent Online
IT IS particularly depressing that large numbers of people in Sri Lanka should be suffering from severe malnutrition ("Forgotten victims of war in Sri Lanka", 10 February) as that country was one of the first developing countries to bring its Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) down to a level indicating that chronic, persistent hunger was no longer an issue. Continuing enlightened policies kept the IMR down to 17 per thousand even in 1996, after many years of civil war.

Even more depressing is the damage being done to the long-term prospects of those children who survive. Malnutrition stunts growth and reduces IQ; lack of specific micronutrients such as iodine reduce it further (when their contribution to the cocktail of debilitation and disease is not fatal). These losses cannot be made up later - there is no second chance. Lack of zinc and vitamin A also reduce the resistance of children to the rampant malaria which your report mentions.

The Sri Lankan government has provided an example to other countries with its distinguished record of providing for the basic needs of all of its people, in difficult circumstances. Let it not falter now.


London N13