A pilot “Milk for schools” programme in the northern province of Bac Ninh has benefited 12,000 children under six years old, helping reduce child malnutrition rate in the locality significantly.

Do Thi Diep, head of the Nursery Education Office under the provincial Department of Education and Training, said the programme, launched last September, was realised at 24 local nursery schools in a number of districts, including Thuan Thanh, Gia Binh, Que Vo, Yen Phong and Luong Tai.

Under the programme, each child was offered with 200 millilitres of milk free, three times a week, nine months a year.

As a result, the rate of stunted children at the schools dropped to 4.37 percent against the 8 percent rate reported before the programme, while that of weight malnutrition among the group was down to 3 percent.

Bac Ninh plans to expand the programme to all of its nursery schools between 2014 and 2017, with the number of beneficiaries reaching up to 230,000.

The “milk for schools” programme, which has run from 2013 through 2017, costs some 178 billion VND (8.39 million USD), of which 50 percent has come from the local budget, 25 percent from the milk suppliers and the rest from children’s parents and social funding.

Bac Ninh now has a total of 155 nursery schools.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one-third of Vietnamese children under the age of five are stunted as a result of malnutrition. However, Vietnam is managing to fix the problem.

Data from the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) initiative shows that the rate of child malnutrition in Vietnam is declining by 1.5 percent every year. From 44 percent in 1994, the rate has dropped to under 20 percent at present.-VNA