A call for the imposition of nutrition emergency in Baluchistan by Provincial Minister for Health Mir Naseebullah Marri reveals a grim picture of the living conditions of the population. Particularly, the nutrition situation of mother and child is very serious. Nutrition is one of the most neglected aspects in Pakistan.
Over the decades, the successive governments have not paid much attention to the issue, resulting in the current alarming statistics. Reportedly, Balochistan figures portrayed a dismal picture as 40 per cent are underweight, 52 per cent stunted, 16 per cent wasted, 61 per cent have Vitamin A deficiency (Maternal), 74 per cent with Vitamin A deficiency (child), 49 per cent with anemia (maternal), and 57 per cent with anemia (child).
Poor spending on healthcare, stoppage of funding by donors and negligence of the previous government are cited as the main reasons for the existing pathetic situation. This reflects an abysmal state of mother and child health in the province. Unfortunately the incontrovertible fact is that the provision of proper health and nutrition facilities is a distant dream for the common man in Pakistan, who is left at the mercy of the haphazard health system, negligible facilities and often vacuous and unskilled practices of the health staff.
The government, busy in improving economic situation of the country, cannot pay attention to alarming situation of malnutrition in Balochistan. The deplorable state of maternal and child wellbeing is a reflection of apathy of the government. The government needs to prioritise health over all other issues, being conscious of every human being’s right to life, which means that no economic, regional or other disparity should hinder a citizen from receiving proper healthcare. For Pakistan to have any chance of overcoming its lag, besides creating denser networks of healthcare units, especially in the rural areas, and countering problems of female access to facilities, the government needs to reinvigorate the current system so that investment in healthcare does not become a victim of self-serving policies and reaches those who desperately need it.
Malnutrition continues to haunt the masses in Balochistan. The situation is alarming and there is an urgent need to provide emergency healthcare services and establish a nutrition surveillance system along with livelihood assistance programmes. The concerned authorities need to scale up the rescue operation with an effective monitoring system to alleviate the suffering of people so that the lives of thousands of children can be saved. Undoubtedly, united efforts are needed to eradicate the menace of malnutrition. New programmes at the provincial level are needed to be launched for the awareness of the masses. The rulers need to abandon their opulent, monarch-like lifestyle, and instead focus all their energies and resources on elevating the condition of the underprivileged and downtrodden people by providing them basic necessities of life. Moreover, the authorities should collaborate with international organisations to address the problem more effectively.