JOHANNESBURG, 2 July (IRIN) - A nutrition survey in Madagascar has shown that 16 percent of children in areas affected by the recent cyclones were severely malnourished, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday.
The survey was carried out among 2,508 children aged six to 59 months in 21 of the areas hardest hit by Cyclone Gafilo, one of the worst weather events to strike the Indian Ocean island in 20 years.
The results also showed that boys were more malnourished than girls, and the children most susceptible to malnutrition were between 12 and 23 months old.
"Nearly half of all children in this country already suffer from retarded growth. This is extremely serious, which is why UNICEF has recommended the immediate establishment of recuperation centres for these children," UNICEF country representative Barbara Bentein said in a statement.
"In response to this serious situation, UNICEF will support Madagascar's government to set up 19 nutritional rehabilitation centres as well as a nutritional surveillance system, so that we can ensure that every child in these areas has access to the best nutrition and care," added Bentein.
Ten of the nutritional centres will be located in local hospitals or at health care posts, while nine temporary centres housed in tents will move from area to area to serve the needs of children in isolated areas.
Cyclone Gafilo left scores dead and thousands homeless. Malagasy authorities have estimated the total economic impact at over US $250 million.
UNICEF has already provided some emergency educational materials for teachers to resume classes, but this assistance needed to be extended to a further 50,000 students and 800 teachers in both urban and rural areas.
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