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Malnutrition, Water intake Survey in the Offing

Islamabad - The government is going to launch a huge survey soon to measure malnutrition and intake of water throughout Pakistan.

Dr Baseer Khan Achakzai, Director Nutrition/National Programme Manager-Ministry of National Health Services, speaking at a conference yesterday said food insecurity remains the biggest factor to malnutrition but issues like water, sanitation and education play a big role in promoting malnutrition as well.

The last national nutrition survey was conducted in 2011. Dr Achakzai said the programme is also considering to tap the homes registered with Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to make it pro-nutrition. These families should get some money for nutrient dense food.

The national conference themed ‘Health and Nutrition: Shaping a Healthier Nation’ was jointly organised by Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR), National Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services (NAPHIS) and Nestle Pakistan Ltd.

The speakers included people from Nestle, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), Micronutrient Initiative (MI) and European Union. Experts from all across the country, including Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, participated in the conference. Technical Director of Food Fortification Programme, Dr Tausif Akhtar Janjua said almost 50 percent deaths among children are due to malnutrition and overall loss to the economy is 3 percent of GDP annually. That is more than the loss due to the energy crises.

And, nearly half of Pakistani mothers and children suffer from under-nutrition. The situation is worse than that in Sub-Saharan Africa, he remarked. “Children who are malnourished learn less at school and then earn less when they grow up. Adults who are malnourished as children earn up to 46 percent less than adequately nourished children,” he said highlighting the affects of the malnutrition.

“Addressing micro-nutrient malnutrition through fortification is one of the best investments Pakistan can make in its future,” he stressed. “We need to bring sectors like health, social protection, agri, development & poverty reduction, education and women empowerment together to address these challenges.”

Dr Farnaz Malik from National Institute of Health echoed Janjua saying, “We can reduce the risk of under-nutrition through micronutrient fortification.”

The chief guest of the conference Rana Tanweer Hussain, Federal Minister of Science & Technology said the topic is relevant because the National Nutrition Survey indicates that stunting, wasting and micronutrient malnutrition are endemic in Pakistan. In addition, he said, the need of the hour is to look at health and nutrition with an integrated approach.

The speakers concluded that the government, civil society and the private sector need to join hands not only to create awareness on the role good nutrition can play in the rural and urban economic development of a country but also to offer solutions to nutritional challenges faced by Pakistan.