Growing hunger

 
August 18,2019

In one of the biggest studies on nutrition in Pakistan’s history, the National Nutrition Survey for 2018 carried out under the National Health Services Ministry has produced a series of...

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In one of the biggest studies on nutrition in Pakistan’s history, the National Nutrition Survey for 2018 carried out under the National Health Services Ministry has produced a series of terrifying data. It states that due to poverty, more than 50 percent of Pakistani families are unable to consume even two meals a day, failing to meet their basic nutritional needs. As a result, malnutrition among children is chronic, with 40.2 percent facing a lasting impact on health due to this. Stunted growth, wasting and issues with brain development are all part of these. Severe dietary deficiencies exist across the country and 36.9 percent of Pakistani households remain food insecure, uncertain they will have access to affordable, nutritious food in adequate amounts. The survey is aimed at drawing the attention of authorities to the growing problem of malnutrition. For Pakistani children, it has now reached its worst ever level in all four provinces as well as in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. The survey is based on the study of 115,600 families, a majority of them women and children. Poor sewerage situations and water supply around homes added to the risks posed to these persons.

Every day as we walk down a street or enter a shop, we may be looking straight into the eyes of a starving child, woman or man. This should be making us think. The issue of nutrition and providing sufficient food to people needs to become the primary responsibility of government. It cannot be placed behind other issues even though corruption, mismanagement, administrative working and law and order are major concerns. It is essential we find a way to provide every citizen of the country, no matter where they live, with enough to sustain life and health and for children to develop physical and cognitive powers.

Pakistan stands alongside a number of sub-Saharan African countries in respect of its failure to feed its people and behind virtually every South Asian country. This is something we should not accept. The fertile plains of Punjab once stood in the midst of a province which boasted that no one who lived there went hungry at night. Today, this is no longer true. In urban centres too, hunger grows with rising inflation undoubtedly adding to the pressure on families to simply scrape together a meal for their members. Perhaps we need to think along emergency lines and consider soup kitchens, free meals in school and other meals to save our people from starvation.


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