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March 15, 2015
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Malnutrition in Pakistan severest in region: report

Business

March 15, 2015

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LAHORE: A World Bank report has warned that malnutrition costs countries up to 3.0 percent of the yearly GDP and malnourished children lose 10 percent of their lifetime earning potential stressing that malnutrition in Pakistan is the severest in the region.
The statistics gathered from various United Nation (UN) and donor sources indicated that Pakistan ranks below China, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on prevalence of stunting, micronutrient uptake, adolescent and adult nutrition status and various other indicators directly related with nutrition.
According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)/ World Health Organization (WHO) data, prevalence of stunting below the age of five in India was 62 percent in 1990, it has now declined to 48 percent, in China it has declined from 22 percent to 9.0 percent, while in Pakistan it has increased from 43 percent in 1992 to 45 percent 2012. In Bangladesh, prevalence of stunting below the age of five was 51 percent in 2004 and has now declined to 41 percent. Sri Lanka has even better record where stunting has declined from 28 percent in 1995 to 15 percent now.
Nutritional expert Dr Jameel Tajwar said that delayed growth, especially stunting, is reported in children with clinical signs of vitamin A deficiency. In addition, deficiency of zinc, which is essential for DNA and protein synthesis, leads to growth failure and delayed secondary sexual maturation in man and animals. He said only a balanced diet could provide these essential nutrients to the population, adding that the other way of providing these essential minerals is fortifying staple food or frequently used manufactured edibles. “Iron and iodine are the other substances that need to be added in the staple foods,” he added.
She asserted that as per WHO statistics, 51 percent of the women population in Pakistan is suffering from anemia because, “We have failed to fortify wheat flour with iron despite of proved trials that showed fortified flour

almost eliminated anemia in population that consumed products made from fortified flour.”
Tajwar said only anemia suffering women are 20 percent in China, 48 percent in India, 44 percent in Bangladesh, and 26 percent in Sri Lanka, adding that 13 percent preschool children suffer from Vitamin a deficiency in Pakistan.
This deficiency in the same group is 20 percent in China, 62 percent in India, 22 percent in Bangladesh and 35 percent in Sri Lanka.
Children aged 6-12 are suffering from severe iodine deficiency in Pakistan, he said adding that iodine uptake is optimal in Indian children while Bangladeshi children have mild iodine deficiency and Sri Lankan children have optimal iodine uptake.
Dr Mussarat Tahir, a medical practitioner, said according to the World Bank more than one third of all child deaths every year around the world are attributed to malnutrition, specifically under nutrition, which weakens the body’s resistance to illness.
She said in our society, pregnant and nursing women eat too few calories and proteins, have untreated infections, such as sexually transmitted diseases that lead to low birth weight, or do not get enough rest.
Mothers have too little time to take care of their young children or themselves during pregnancy, Tahir said adding that another practice spreading among mothers of newborns is to discard their first breast milk known as ‘colostrum’ which strengthens the child’s immune system.
“Young mothers often feed children, under the age of six months, foods other than breast milk even though exclusive breastfeeding is the best source of nutrients and the best protection against many infectious and chronic diseases,” she added.
WHO 2014 reports revealed that metabolic risk factors for diet related communicable diseases include raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose and raised blood cholesterol, Tahir said adding that 40 percent of the population in Pakistan suffers from raised blood pressure, 40 percent have higher sugar level in blood and 39 percent have higher than average blood glucose level.
“High level of these substances in blood indicate bad nutrition and place the population at high risk to many ailments,” she said.
Economist Yunus Kamran said it makes sense that better nutrition enhances economic growth however, “we still need solid economic theories and models with which to formalize this relationship.”
He said stunted children cannot be expected to grow up as productive adults compared with those that were fed adequate food in the first five years of life, adding that nutritional deficiencies could be addressed at a nominal cost and the yields are enormous.

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