The largest emergency our country faces may not be linked to politics, the economy or the coronavirus pandemic. It lies in the fact that our children are seriously malnutritioned, in some cases to...
The largest emergency our country faces may not be linked to politics, the economy or the coronavirus pandemic. It lies in the fact that our children are seriously malnutritioned, in some cases to the point that they're unable to function normally. According to the National Nutritional Survey, the results of which were released on Tuesday, four in 10 children under five are stunted, which means they are unable to reach the expected height for their age and two out of 10 are wasted, or below the expected weight for age. In addition to this 13 percent of children, from two to five years of age, have a functional disability of some kind, which often comes in the form of an emaciated limb, or other problem which deprives them of leading a completely normal life. There's also evidence from around the world that children who are stunted or seriously wasted could suffer deficits to intelligence and brain function.
This is then not a problem that can be ignored. It is shocking that our governments have for so long given it insufficient attention. The fact that we are bringing up a generation of children who are not healthy and not able to lead full lives or offer full function to society or to themselves is shocking. It is also shocking that so many children go hungry and without proper nutrition each day around the country. The survey carried out in 115,000 households, according to the National Nutritional Director, is the largest ever conducted in the country. It shows that the worst problems are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, as well as the newly merged tribal districts, which once formed Fata. The problems of malnutrition do exist in other parts of the country as well but are less extreme. This study was carried out with Unicef support and contributed to by the Aga Khan University and other bodies. Dr Faisal Sultan, the prime minister's special Adviser on health, says that it is essential that steps be taken to solve the problem, and that the government would be looking into it.
What we need now is action – such as food for children who require this additional nutrition. It must come in the form of food that is not frittered away by corruption, but actually delivered to children who go to school. The problem also is that the issue begins before children are 24 months old. This means that mothers and their children both have to be reached. Maternal malnutrition is also a huge problem contributing to the food available to children and to their state of health. The programme has to be a wide-ranging one, reaching all those who require help. The government cannot afford to waste any time. Indeed, we should consider the fact that even if one child goes without adequate food that should be a massive national problem which must be addressed on an urgent basis. The fact that thousands lack sufficient nutrition to grow normally and develop the normal health of a grown child is a dismal reflection on how we have run our country over the years.