Survey of children shows gains in some areas
14% of under-five kids underweight
27% of those under 14 work
Stabroek News
September 20, 2001

By Miranda La Rose

Some 15% of children under four months were exclusively breast fed, a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted in Guyana of local households by the Bureau of Statistics has found.

This percentage of breast-fed infants (under four months) is considerably lower than recommended.

However, the findings of the survey showed that the infant mortality rate was estimated at 54 per 1,000 for last year compared to the under-five mortality rate of 72 per 1,000 for 1997.

According to Assistant Representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) local office, Dr Sreelakshmi Gururaja, the MICS has shown solid gains in some areas such as education but revealed disparities in access and delivery of social services as regards children.

Dr Gururaja handed over a copy of the findings of the MICS, which was conducted between July and November last year and funded by UNICEF, to Foreign Trade Minister Clement Rohee yesterday in the main conference room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The gains and disparities, Rohee said would enhance a national child statistics reporting system as an aid to programme planning, decision making and "the establishment of reliable benchmark indicators from which future gains in child health and welfare can be assessed."

Copies of the executive summary were distributed to the media, but comparative figures for most areas under scrutiny were not available in the summary.

In education, the survey found that 35% of children aged 36 to 59 months attended some form of organised early childhood education programme and 98% of children of primary school age attended primary schools at the national level. There was hardly any difference in the rates of attendance for boys and girls. Attendance on the coastal area was higher (98%) than in the interior (96%). Some 97% of children who entered the first grade of primary school eventually reached grade five (primary three).

In relation to malnutrition, the survey found that 14% of children under five years were underweight or too thin for their age. Eleven per cent of children were stunted or too short for their age and 11% too thin for their height. Children from the rural coast were more likely to be underweight and wasted, compared with children from the urban coast and interior. Children at older ages (12 to 59 months) were more likely to be undernourished, than younger children (11 months).

In terms of low birth rate, the survey found that 11% of infants were estimated to weigh less than 2,500 grammes at birth. This was found to be higher than the average for the Latin American and Caribbean region. In this area, there were no substantial differences between interior and coastal areas.

In relation to immunization, the survey found that 97% of children aged 12 to 23 months received a BCG vaccination by the age of 12 months. While 95% of those vaccinated with the BCG were given the first dose of the DPT shortly after, the proportions declined to 90% for the second dose and 86% for the third. Similarly 94% of children aged 12 to 23 months received Polio 1 by 12 months, but then the percentage dropped for the subsequent doses. The number of children who received MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) between the ages of 12 to 23 months was only 45%. It was found that vaccination coverage was highest among children whose mothers had secondary or higher education.

Under malaria, the survey found that 61% of children under five in the interior -- designated malarious -- slept under bed-nets. Only 11% of the bed-nets were impregnated with insecticide. International recommendations suggest the treatment of fever among children in high-risk areas as if it were malaria by immediately giving the child a full course of anti-malarial tablets. About 24% of children with a fever in the two weeks prior to the MICS interview, were given paracetamol to treat the fever and only three per cent were given an appropriate anti-malarial drug.

As relates to HIV and AIDS, 43% of women aged 15 to 49 knew the three main ways to prevent HIV transmission, that is, having only one uninfected partner, using a condom and abstaining from sex; 45% correctly identified three misconceptions about HIV transmissions (through supernatural means or through mosquito bites and that a healthy person cannot be infected); and 69% of women of reproductive age knew a place to get tested and about 16% had been tested.

In relation to orphanhood and living arrangements for children, the survey found that 65% of children up to 14 years old were living with both parents, while nine per cent were living without a biological parent. Twenty-three per cent, considered relatively high, were living with their mothers. Of the 23% who lived with only mothers, 21% had fathers who were still alive. In the urban coast, the proportion of children not living with a biological parent (11%) was higher than in the interior (five per cent) and on the rural coast (eight per cent).

In terms of child labour, 27% of children below 14 were found to be currently working, that is paid or unpaid work for a non-household member or performing four or more hours of housekeeping chores. Sixteen per cent did work on farms and in businesses. It was found that children from the interior were almost four times more likely than those from the coast to have worked on family farms or businesses, while children from the coast were more likely to have been engaged in unpaid work for persons who were not members of their household.

Children in the hinterland had less access to improved sources of drinking water compared to their peers in the coastal urban and coastal rural areas. The survey noted that 83% of the population had access to improved sources of drinking water.

Among the other areas that came under scrutiny, according to the executive summary of the survey were diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection, contraception, pre-natal care, assistance at delivery and birth registration.