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Pakistan struggling to control malnutrition

KARACHI: Pakistan is still struggling to control over malnutrition while member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have a faster stunting reduction rate.

Findings from the Global Nutrition Report 2016 highlighted that malnutrition has a lifelong effect on Pakistan’s children and adults and severe consequences for the economy. In report and subsequent discussions on policy responses to country’s nutrition crisis, experts said that many factors were contributing to the nutrition crisis which calls for a multi-sectored approach to the problem.

They said that reaching these vulnerable people requires an intervention that takes into account factors such as gender, socioeconomic status and regional inequalities. The menu of multi-sector interventions is still being debated, yet to be financed and implemented in Pakistan. “Lessons are particularly needed in agriculture and livestock, water and sanitation, pulling in the private sector market, single cohesive leadership and specialised technical assistance,” said Dr Shehla Zaidi, director of the Graduate Programme for Health Policy and Management at the Aga Khan University (AKU).

“Inadequate access to nutrition in the first few years of a child’s life results in irreversible neurological and physical effects, diminished mental ability and learning capacity, increased vulnerability to deadly diseases as well as lower work productivity and earning capacity as adults,” said Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, AKU founding director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health and a member of the Independent Expert Group which produced the Global Nutrition Report 2016.

“Those girls, who are malnourished in their early years, are more likely to give birth to underweight children, which mean these health problems have a multi-generational impact. This is why stakeholders need to focus on early, high-impact interventions and preventive strategies,” he said. In collaboration with the Planning Commission of Pakistan, International Food Policy Research Institute and Palladium, the Aga Khan University organized the seminar – Towards Sustainable Nutrition in Pakistan: Unlocking Barriers – on
the issue.

Planning and Development Secretary Altaf Bijarani highlighted the government’s commitment to root out malnutrition and stunting in the province. The seminar focused on identifying multi-sector interventions that could help reduce malnutrition and nurture future generations. The speakers called for simple accelerated actions to improve the quality of life and to meet commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Goals 2 and 3 on ending hunger, and ensuring healthy lives and wellbeing for all ages.

“Malnutrition is a condition that directly affects one in three people. The economic consequences represent losses of 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) every year in Africa and Asia, whereas preventing malnutrition delivers $16 in returns on investment for every $1 spent. The world’s countries have agreed on targets for nutrition, but despite some progress in recent years the world is off track to reach those targets,” the report stated.

Inamul Haq and Sylvia Kauffman from the World Bank, Charlotte Dufour from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Mahbubur Rehman from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research and Azra Pechuho and Shahnaz Wazir Ali from the Oversight Committee on Primary Health Care and Polio, the government of Sindh, also spoke on the occasion.

Byline: Zulfiqar Kunbhar

Source: Daily Times

November 12, 2016

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