hunger in malaysiaMalaysia is a small country located in Southeast Asia, known for its fast-growing economy and great ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious diversity. However, like many nations, Malaysian citizens face persistent challenges when it comes to issues of poverty: specifically hunger and malnourishment. Here are 7 facts about hunger in Malaysia.

7 Facts about Hunger in Malaysia

  1. Hunger Level: As recorded in the 2019 Global Hunger Index, out of the 117 qualifying countries Malaysia ranks 57thand endures a moderate hunger level.
  2. Malnourishment and Causes: Though Malaysia has been able to drastically reduce the country’s poverty rate, malnutrition is still a major issue in Malaysia. Malnutrition is an imbalance in a person’s energy or nutrient consumption. The condition is not always as obvious as one would presume. It is common in many South Asian and Southeast Asian cultures for daily diets to be quite starch-heavy; this is common as most of the meals consist of rice in some way. Though this allows people to feel full, a diet that is heavily reliant upon starch doesn’t include the nutrients needed for a truly healthy lifestyle. According to nutritionist André Rhoen, one possible solution is making healthy food more affordable to the underprivileged through food fortification.
  3. Child Hunger: Poverty and malnutrition in Malaysia have a severe long-term impact on children. 23% of children aged four are stunted, with 22% underweight and 32% wasting, or thinner than the average. In a study surveying 16 low-cost Public Housing Projects in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, the research found that 22% of children under five experienced stunted growth, which is double the global rate.
  4. Poverty and Prices: Despite having a comparatively higher GDP to other nations struggling with hunger issues, the people in Malaysia experience higher rates of malnourishment and impaired growth. 12% of children in Malaysia eat fewer than three meals a day and 97% of households reported that they felt that the cost of food was too high and it hindered their ability to prepare healthy meals for their children.
  5. Fighting Hunger: Several Malaysian NGOs are doing the work to combat poverty and hunger in the country. One of these organizations is Rise Against Hunger Malaysia, which strives to provide food and aid to vulnerable communities in Malaysia. Since its inception in 1998, they have implemented many anti-hunger and anti-poverty initiatives. These include their meal packaging program and several sustainable community development projects. As of July 2020, they have packaged 12,866,000 meals in Malaysia. Furthermore, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals include a plan to eradicate hunger and poverty in countries such as Malaysia by the year 2030.
  6. Progress: Though these problems still exist, Malaysia has made a lot of progress in the last few decades. In 1970 half of all Malaysian households were poor; in just 15 years Malaysia more than halved the absolute poverty rate. This trend has managed to continue in the last few decades; only 5.1% of households were considered to be poor in 2002.
  7. The Lost Food Project: A major way Malaysia is slowly making progress regarding food poverty is through The Lost Food Project (TLFP). TLFP is working to build a sustainable future by “rescuing ‘lost’ food and finding it a new home with people who need it most” within the country. They are a volunteer-run organization that provides people in vulnerable communities in Malaysia with surplus food; their goal is not only eliminating hunger in Malaysia but putting an end to food waste as well.

Hunger and malnutrition are still major crises in Malaysia that disproportionately affect the poor: particularly children. However, despite these challenges, the country has done a remarkable job of increasing the standard of living for its citizens. With possible policy implementations such as universal childcare allowance and reassessing the Poverty Line Income, the future looks hopeful.

– Shreeya Sharma
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in MalaysiaMalaysia has shown remarkable economic progress over the past several decades, with poverty falling from 49.3 percent in 1970 to 23 percent in 1989 and 1.7 percent in 2012. One of the key aspects of the New Economic Policy adopted by Malaysia was creating a “Pro-Poor” policy. According to the World Bank, “the NEP contributed to poverty reduction and helped provide opportunities to poor households.”

However, Malaysia’s Poverty Line Income differs from the standard $1 USD per day (purchasing power parity) poverty line. When converting to international standards, it results in Malaysia having a higher poverty rate.

There has never been a problem of chronic hunger in Malaysia. Many nutrition programs have been incorporated into the rural development programs and have proved successful. According to the World Health Organization, consumption of fewer than 1,960 calories a day is a mark of food poverty. A great indicator of successful eradication of hunger in Malaysia lies in the fact that its daily per capita intake of calories has been consistently above the standard mark. The average was 2,969 in 1999.

The government introduced the Applied Food and Nutrition Programme in 1972 to improve nutrition and alleviate hunger in Malaysia. It aimed to increase the production of nutritious foods and promote supplementary feeding of pregnant and lactating mothers as well as infants and school-going children.

The Nutrition Rehabilitation Programme started in 1989, focusing on malnourished children. Food baskets containing nutritional supplements are distributed to such children on a monthly basis.

The results have been very positive. Only 1 percent of Malaysia’s children under the age of five are severely underweight, while the proportion of moderate underweight malnutrition has declined from 25 percent in the early 1990s to 12 percent in 2001.

Malaysia has overcome poverty through an inclusive approach to growth and equity. But there are still vulnerable groups, like single female-headed households and the elderly. Also, many Orang Asli still face extreme poverty. To move forward, a new consensus has to be built around a poverty line that is more balanced in line with international standards, as was suggested by the UNDP.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr