Stunting menace

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Surveys help. They either debunk or reinforce your views and perceptions on and about things. This latest National Nutrition Survey launched on Monday has not caught the attention of the media and by extension people as the first two days after the Eid holidays have been tumultuous in the political arena. There were two major arrests on charges of corruption as per the investigations conducted by the indefatigable NAB. PPP’s co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari was arrested on Monday afternoon whereas Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz was nabbed on Tuesday after the Lahore High Court cancelled his pre-arrest bail request.

Well there was a third arrest in London –although away from our shores still very much relevant with Pakistani audience – of former MQM chief Altaf Hussain. As if that was not enough, there was the budget exercise Tuesday late afternoon. So understandably no one had time to look into what is happening to the future of this nation. Do we care? Ironically, there should be no better time than the run up to the budget day to discuss such critical issues.

Four in ten under five children are stunted according to the latest National Nutrition Survey published by the Government of Pakistan. The survey assessed 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.

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.” While we have reason to doubt the honourable minister’s intentions, this is the not the first time that such a survey has been conducted. The last such exercise was undertaken in 2011.

According to the National Nutrition Survey 2011, one-third of all children were underweight, nearly 44pc were stunted, 15pc were wasted, half of them were anemic and almost one-third of these children had iron deficiency anemia. These rates have hardly changed over two decades according to the findings of a maternal and child nutrition study group published by Lancet in 2013.

The minister 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,” the minister said.  Fingers crossed as the budget figures for health tell a different story.