KARACHI: All stakeholders have to play their respective role to address malnutrition in Sindh. This was discussed during a policy dialogue organised by Save the Children with financial support of ECHO to provide an opportunity to discuss the current situation of malnutrition in Sindh, identify role of different stakeholders and way forward to address the issue of Malnutrition in the Province.
Opening the dialogue, Iqbal Detho, Provincial Manager Advocacy and Campaigns Save the Children shared the objective of seminar and stressed that malnutrition should be debated as national issue and must receive attention of policy makers/legislators, civil society and media.
Dr Irshad Danish Advocacy and Campaigns Specialist Save the Children said that Pakistan particularly Sindh is facing a silent crisis of malnutrition that is amongst the worst in the world and has not improved for decades. The current malnutrition crisis in Pakistan has been estimated to cost the economy 3% of GDP per year; Pakistan cannot afford to sustain this drain on the economy this needs to be urgently addressed in order to safeguard the country’s future development and prosperity said Dr Danish. He told that it’s a simple fact that nearly half of all children in Pakistan are malnourished, and this undermines their own mental and physical growth, as well as the country’s prospects. Dr Danish appreciated enactment of “Sindh Protection of Breastfeeding and Young Child Nutrition Act 2013” and adoption of Sindh Inter-sectoral Nutrition Strategy by the Government of Sindh. However, he stressed that much more is needed to address the issue of food security and malnutrition in the province. He emphasized on implementation of “Sindh Protection of Breastfeeding and Young Child Nutrition Act 2013” as well as allocation of adequate budgetary allocations for nutrition and child health programs. Sharing the findings of findings of National Nutrition Survey (NNS 2011) Dr Shabina Arif consultant neonatologist/ assistant professor at Aga Khan University said that the Sindh, with just under a quarter of Pakistan’s population, has a dangerously high rate of nutritional stunting among children under age 5 (49.8 %.) She told the prevalence of underweight children in Sindh is 40.5%, while wasting prevalence is 17.5%. These figures have not changed significantly in the past decade said Dr Shabina. She said, unlike many other areas in South Asia, there are no significant differences in the nutritional status of young girls and boys in Sindh. Problems emerge for females however in adolescence and adulthood. Only 52.5% of women in Sindh have body mass index which is normal, while 23.7% are underweight and 24.0% are overweight or obese.
Dr. Saifullah Jamro, Head of the Pediatrics Department, Chandka Medical College Larkana said Jamro. Malnutrition makes the children prone to acquiring communicable diseases like measles and also ending up with complications. Malnutrition also reduces the effectiveness of certain vaccinations said Dr Jamro. If Pakistan implements even the health sector interventions to address malnutrition, rates of stunting (chronic malnutrition) could be cut by one third.
Dr Salma Shaikh Professor at Liaqat Medical University explained that poverty is not the only reason behind child malnutrition in the country. There is a strong relationship between fertility, disease burden and practices such as hand washing, feeding practices especially exclusive breastfeeding said Dr Slma. She added that long-term (chronic) malnutrition undermines both physical and mental development; nearly half of Pakistan’s children are chronically malnourished, and have their brain development and immune systems impaired, with life-long consequences. Zulfiqar Halepoto Civil Society Activist said Government of Sindh has to adopt multi-sectoral approaches to address malnutrition in the province. We need to address root causes of i.e. poor governance, social injustice, gender based discrimination and poor resource allocations he added.
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