Four in ten under five children are stunted according to the new National Nutrition Survey (NNS), published by the Government of Pakistan today. The survey shows a 4 per cent decrease since the last survey conducted in 2011, and that nearly two out of every ten children under five also suffer from wasting.
The survey assesses the nutrition status of 115,500 households across Pakistan. Children under-five, adolescent girls and women of child bearing age were the primary focus while collecting the data on nutrition indicators.
Nearly 13 per cent of children between the ages of two and five years 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 suffers from being underweight. Over half of the adolescent girls in Pakistan are anemic.
The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (MoNHSR&C) led the survey, which was implemented by the Agha Khan University, funded by the United Kingdom (UK) government with technical support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
State Minister, National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination, Dr. Zafar Mirza said, “Now that we have the foundation in the form of baseline information, let us together build the future our children deserve.” He further said that the federal government prioritizes the country’s nutrition agenda and will work closely with provinces for informed and effective interventions in the sector. “As difficult a task as it may seem, we will ensure that we save our children from malnutrition,” he added. The minister reiterated the present government’s resolve is to address the enormous issue of malnutrition in Pakistan, especially of women and young children.
Speaking at the launch, Joanna Reid, Head of DFID Pakistan said, “DFID is proud to have supported the National Nutrition Survey, but the findings are very concerning.” She continued that women and children in the country are far below the acceptable levels of nutrition and this alarming situation requires urgent attention. “I would like to recognize the commitment shown by the Government of Pakistan to address this. Improving nutrition levels for under-five children, adolescent girls and women of child-bearing age remains a major UK priority in Pakistan,” Ms. Reid remarked.
Addressing the occasion, Ms. Aida Girma, Country Representative, UNICEF Pakistan expressed pleasure on having supported the initiative. “The National Nutrition Survey 2018 is a wake-up call to a clear and present emergency,” Ms. Girma said. “High prevalence of various forms of malnutrition affecting children, adolescents and women is more responsible for the ill-health of the people of Pakistan than any other cause,” she added. Ms. Girma emphasized that UNICEF will continue to work with the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to end all forms of malnutrition.
The findings of the survey were shared by Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Founding Director of Centre of Excellence in Women & Child Health, Agha Khan University. The event was attended by high ranking officials of the government, including secretaries of the provincial health ministries, Director General, MoNHSR&C and other officials of the federal health ministry. Civil society members, media persons, officials of the United Nations and other national and international organizations were also in attendance.