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Nutritional challenges, opportunities highlighted


May 5, 2019

LAHORE: A media dialogue on the nutrition situation affecting children, adolescents and women of Pakistan was organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) here Friday.

The dialogue, held in collaboration with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (MNHSRC), highlighted the challenges and opportunities related to nutrition in the country.

The interactive discussion featured distinguished guests such as Ms Kanwal Shauzab, member of National Assembly of Pakistan and parliamentary secretary of Planning Development & Reform, Dr Nausheen Hamid, MNA and parliamentary secretary of NHSRC, Dr Abdul Baseer Khan Achakzai, director nutrition, MNHSRC, Muhammad Aslam Shaheen, chief of nutrition, Planning and Development Division and Dr Saba Shuja, nutrition officer, UNICEF Pakistan.

The panel of experts expressed concern over the fact that more than four out of every 10 children under five years of age were affected by stunting. Stunting is caused by chronic malnutrition. It inhibits children’s cognitive and physical development, damaging their growth in the long run. More than 15 per cent of children in the same age group suffer from severe acute malnutrition – an illness that can also be fatal.

The nutritional status of adolescent girls and women impacts the growth and development of their future children.

Attempts at reducing the number of underweight and anaemic adolescent girls between the ages of 10 and 19 years have also been slow. The diets of adolescent girls and women are often too poor to meet nutritional needs for their healthy growth and development as well as that of the future children.

Immediate and exclusive breastfeeding is critical for the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It improves nutrition, prevents child mortality and decreases the risk of non-communicable diseases, and supports cognitive development and education. Breastfeeding is also an enabler to ending poverty, promoting economic growth and reducing inequalities. All these are global goals under the SDGs that Pakistan has also committed to achieving.

A healthy diet meeting the nutritional needs of children protects them from multiple chronic diseases.

Good maternal nutrition of lactating mothers also contributes to the healthy growth of newborns.

Data shows that less than four out of every 10 mothers in the country exclusively breastfeed their newborns for six months – an inevitable requirement to shield children from many health and nutrition-related problems.

The panel as well as the audience agreed that more was needed to be done to save children from stunting, wasting and other nutrition-related challenges that they were faced with.

The commitment of the government of Pakistan and its partners especially UNICEF to target critical nutrition indicators such as, among others, immediate and exclusive breastfeeding, nutritional deficiencies, stunting, wasting, and anaemia was reiterated.

The panel also pushed for increased legislation on child nutrition, especially regulating breast milk substitutes such as formula milk rigorously.

PU Ramazan timings: Punjab University has issued notification of office timings during the month of Ramazan.

The university will remain open from 8am to 2pm (Monday to Thursday) while 8am to 12pm on Friday.

While the University Health Centre and the essential services of resident office-i, resident office-ii, engineering branch, executive club and employees housing society will observe the office timings of 8am to 1pm, except Friday when it will be 8am to 12pm.

condolence: Punjab University Vice-Chancellor Prof Niaz Ahmad Akhtar has expressed grief over the demise of Karachi University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Ajmal Khan.

In his condolence message, the VC said the services of late Dr Ajmal in higher education sector would be remembered forever.

He prayed the departed soul may rest in eternal peace and Almighty Allah may grant courage to the members of bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss.

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