TALLINN - The Estonian Health Development Institute (HDI) said that the news that spread over the weekend in the Estonian and foreign press about starving Estonian schoolchildren was an exaggeration, as research results were misinterpreted, reports Postimeees. HDI said that it has never researched starvation problems of schoolchildren.
The study in question was an international schoolchildren’s health behavior study that took place in 2009/2010 and where 40 states participated, said Estonian coordinator of the study Katrin Aasvee.
She said that the questionnaire included, among many others, a question: “Some children go to school or to sleep with an empty stomach since they do not have enough food at home. How often does that happen to you?” The options were “always,” “often,” “sometimes,” “never.” Among the 11, 13 and 15-year olds that participated in the study, 84.3 percent said “never,” 13.4 percent “sometimes,” 1.5 percent “often” and 0.7 percent “always.”
Aasvee said that this does not show how many children are directly starving: “sometimes” may have meant once or twice, but not why it happened. She added that “often” and “always” may be more indicative: 92 pupils from 4,224 responded this way.
She said that the number of children who answered “sometimes,” “often” and “always” grew, from 11.1 percent in the 2005/2006 academic year to 15.7 percent, but in 2001/2002 the number of these children was even 18.8 percent.
The story that started the rumors was that, during Estonia’s deep 2009 recession, the number of school-aged teenagers in the tiny EU Baltic State going to bed hungry shot up to 16 percent in 2010, which was attributed to fresh data released on Sept. 2. “The percentage of teens who said they go to bed hungry increased to 16 percent in 2010,” the report quoted Aasvee as saying.
Aasvee reiterated that answers children give are subjective and not always connected to poverty, as there are many reasons why a child does not eat, but said that the issue needs more thorough study.