Four out of ten children under 5 are stunted as malnutrition in Pakistan remains a high priority at the government’s agenda. This was stated by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan at the launch of National Nutrition Survey (NNS) on Tuesday.
The current survey shows a 4 per cent decrease since the last Survey conducted in 2011 and that too nearly two out of every ten children under five also suffer from wasting (also known as thinness or acute weight loss). Dr Faisal said on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the health ministry was endlessly engaged in efforts to address the issue of malnutrition.
He highlighted the importance of cascading high level commitments into policies that benefit the masses. On PM’s special directives, MNHSRC is leading in inter sectorial coordination and advocacy as well as policy and planning for nutrition in the country. For this purpose, a Nutrition Advisory Group has also been constituted which would provide technical oversight and guidance on nutrition policy and programming, he added.
Dr. Baseer Achakzai, Director Nutrition Programme, MNHSRC highlighting the findings of the survey said the NNS assessed the nutrition status of 115,500 households across Pakistan, the largest ever nutrition survey conducted in the country. Nearly 13 percent of children between the age of two and five suffer from some form of functional disability. The survey points out that one in every eight adolescent girls and one in every five adolescent boys are underweight.
Over half of the adolescent girls in Pakistan are anemic. Women of reproductive age in Pakistan also bear a Triple burden of malnutrition. 14 percent are undernourished, which reflects an improvement compared to 18 per cent in 2011.
While overweight and obesity has increased from 28% in 2011 to 38% in 2018. He further added that the National Nutrition Survey is funded by the United Kingdom government with technical support from UNICEF, which is carried by Agha Khan University and led by MNHSRC.
The Deputy Director Development British High Commission, Jim Carpy said; United Kingdom is proud to support this very important initiative to assess the nutritional needs in Pakistan.
The results of this survey will help us in tackling the issue of malnutrition by targeting those most affected, including children under 5, adolescent girls and pregnant women. He highlighted that the United Kingdom will continue to work closely with Pakistan to improve maternal and child health, end preventable death and ensure adequate nutrition for all.
Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan said that the National Nutrition Survey 2018 is a wake-up call to a clear and present emergency. The country confronts a triple burden of malnutrition affecting young children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women.
A clear indication that nutrition in Pakistan requires high level attention and adequate funding to reduce mortality due to malnutrition and to ensure that every child reaches her/his full development potential in life. Strengthening the health system to deliver preventative and curative nutrition services at scale is imperative. UNICEF will continue to work with the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to end all forms of malnutrition in the country, she added.
Prof Zulfiqar Ali Bhutta, Founding Director of Centre of Excellence in Women & Child Health, Agha Khan University said on the occasion that Pakistan faces massive challenges in maternal and child nutrition is no longer news. After 2010 floods and the National Nutrition Survey 2011, effective actions on many issues like childhood stunting, wasting and widespread micronutrient deficiencies were lacking.