One-third children born underweight in Pakistan

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A one-third of all children are underweight in the country, nearly 44 percent are stunted, 15 percent are wasted, and half of them are anemic in the country, National Nutrition Survey revealed. According to the survey, 14 percent of women of reproductive age are wasted and 50.4 percent anemic, 21.1 percent are overweight and 9.5 percent obese.
National statistics indicated that almost 10 million children (43.7%) suffer from chronic malnutrition, 3.3 million children (15%) from acute malnutrition and 1.3 million (6%) are severely malnourished requiring therapeutic care, Program Manager, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Civil Society Alliance Pakistan, Dr Muhammad Irshad Danish said.
He said that up to 60 percent of the mothers and children suffer from micro-nutrient deficiencies while Pakistan has the lowest exclusive breastfeeding rate at 37.7 per cent and the highest bottle feeding rate at 41 per cent. One of the most severe effects of malnutrition in early childhood is stunting, or low height for age. Stunting in early childhood is associated with a delayed start at school, reduced educational attainment, and substantially decreased adult wages when measured at both the individual and country level, he added. Dr Danish said that maternal nutrition and breastfeeding behavior along with child underweight, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies are linked to more than 180,000 deaths annually, more than one third of all child mortality.
He said that cognitive deficits from childhood stunting, anemia and iodine deficiency disorders depress future adult productivity. He said that the cost of health care services utilization due to zinc deficiencies, low rates of breastfeeding, and low birth weight is also high.
He said only 45 percent of households use soap and water to wash hands in the households, contributing to fact that one in five children under five years of age in Pakistan have had diarrhea in the last two weeks. This sort of level of infection prevents nutrients from food being absorbed, and directly leads to many cases of acute malnutrition. Dr Danish urged for promotion of early and exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for up to 24 months. He said that malnutrition among children has disastrous effects on the physical and mental growth of the children, which hampers their productive potentials thus negatively impacting the country’s overall prospects of development.
There is now increasing awareness about the situation because of the tireless efforts of many national and international development actors, he added.

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