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Islamabad News
September 16,2015

One-third of Pakistani children malnourished

Farzana Ali Khan
Islamabad
About one-third of the children under five years of age in Pakistan are malnourished from micronutrient deficiencies, such as iodine and iron, says a study.
The study, authored by Arielle Gajer and submitted to the government, says that the malnourishment is mainly a result of the widespread food insecurity that millions of people in the country face.
The food insecurity in Pakistan is largely influenced by extreme poverty, civil unrest and natural disasters.
The author says malnutrition and food insecurity mainly affect women and children in rural, especially conflict-affected, areas.
The report says that about 24% of the population is undernourished and the underlying cause is food insecurity or the consumption of less than 1,700 Kcal per day. Widespread conflict and displacement of people from their homes has a huge impact on the quantity and quality of food intake. It says that the proportion of the population, facing food insecurity, has increased by 56% since 2008 in conflict-affected rural areas.
Food insecurity and poverty are behind 38% of the children to be underweight, 37% to be stunted, and 13% of children under five years old to be moderately or severely wasted. As a result, many of the children face significant micronutrient deficiencies.
About 64% of school aged-children face iodine deficiencies and 50% of children under five are anemic. The prevalence of anemia in women is also as high as 30%. Protein energy malnutrition and other micronutrient deficiencies are underlying causes of death in about one-third of all deaths of children under five in Pakistan.
The report says that Pakistan has developed several cost-effective ways to address the major problem of malnutrition. The micronutrient initiative has partnered with various organisations and industries to enable the production of iodized salt and fortified iron into food products. However, of the current estimated 1.33 million tons of salt produced, 72% is for human use and only 6% of the salt units are iodizing salt. This shows that the country needs to drastically increase the amount of salt iodization and be sure to distribute it to at-risk populations, such as those in rural and conflict-affected areas.

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