Malnutrition a great developmental challenge: Aliya Syed

ISLAMABAD: Malnutrition has become a great developmental challenge in Pakistan for which all Pakistanis need to work together.

“The ratio of stunted children is almost 44% and wasting (sookha) is present at the rate of 15%, undermining the mental and physical growth of our future generations, as well as the country’s long-term prospects. Moderate anemia increased from 27% (2001) to 49% in 2011 for non-pregnant women and 36.9% to 49.3% for pregnant women in the similar timeframe.” Aliya Syed, a development expert specializing in health-related issues, shared these findings while addressing the weekly meeting of Rotary Metropolitan Club Islamabad at a local hotel.

Malnutrition results in morbidity and mortality among the masses. There is a connection between malnutrition and polio as the malnourished children are prone to all types of diseases, including polio.

Malnutrition rose from 47.3% in 2001 to 56% in 2011, among children under 5. The direct outcome of high rates of malnutrition in women is seen in the form of long lasting adverse effects reflected by high maternal mortality and morbidity and its perpetuating effects on infant and child growth and development.

This situation contributes to high mortality and morbidity rates among children under 5 years of age, undermining their mental and physical growth and leading to significant economic impact on the country’s development and prosperity.

As a nation if we start focusing on improving nutritional status we would be able to save a whole generation because the current malnutrition means growing unskilled, economically unproductive population, which could take our country further behind.

Understanding the hard fact that fight against malnutrition is a very long and complex whole where persistent efforts and an integrated approach is required. She urged the government to fully implement the 2002 Breast Milk Substitutes Ordinance, which discourages formula milks. We need to encourage early initiation of breast milk and exclusive breastfeeding by mothers, provision of safe drinking water, improved personal hygiene, mass awareness campaigns, promotion of kitchen gardening, dietary diversity for infants and elders alike, discouraging processed foods and change in life style.

The Rotarians praised government’s efforts for the eradication of malnutrition and extended their cooperation for the upcoming National Nutrition Survey 2017. They expressed their commitment to redouble their efforts to address the issue of malnutrition at all levels.