Pakistan’s progress in overcoming child malnutrition has not been encouraging
Sundar, 47, who lives in a municipality in Hyderabad has three sons. He earns Rs 25,000 a month. He is all praise for a grassroots not-for-profit organisation in Hyderabad that is providing his family micro-nutrients.
With a population of 2.3 million, Hyderabad has 1,000 lady health workers. They have been catering to the healthcare needs of nearly half of Hyderabad city’s needs.
Yameen Memon, the MFD CEO, who has a PhD from the United States of America, says the community health workers educate the poorest of the poor workers about healthcare.
Meena, 20, says: “I had three children. One of them passed away. My daughter, Dipika, is three years old and Rida is 6 years old. They were very weak. Now they are alright, thanks to the MDF that is providing us with micro-nutrients.” Her husband, Sham, works in the municipality. His salary is Rs 14,000 a month.
When asked how her family survived on the meagre salary, she says, “My brother-in-law lives with us. He supports our family. I breastfed my eldest daughter when she was born. Now she takes powdered milk.”
Mohsin Ali, 31, sells clothes. He has three children. One of them is six years old. “Now we have another baby. The MDF provided us with a safe delivery kit, micro nutrients and folic acid tablets. The delivery took place at the CDF Hospital, Gari Khatta, Hyderabad.
Malnutrition is a complex, multi-sectoral problem caused by poor nutrition, deficiencies of protein and micronutrients and leads to overweight, obesity and several non-communicable diseases, resulting from poor quality and micronutrient-poor diets and low physical activity.
Over the last decade, Pakistan’s progress in overcoming child malnutrition has not been encouraging. The National Nutrition Survey (NNS) conducted in 2011 has shown a Global Acute Malnutrition (wasting) rate of 15.1 percent, higher than the 13 percent figure of the previous NNS 2001; disaggregate wasting rates in the urban and rural populations were 12.6 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively.
More than 30 percent of children are underweight, 44 percent are stunted. 49 percent of women are moderately anemic. More than half of children under the age of five are anemic, and 39 percent children are zinc-deficient.
The WHO nutrition programme focuses on addressing all forms of malnutrition by strengthening and thoroughly evaluating multi-sectoral programmes and policies that aim to improve the diet, nutritional status and health of mothers, infants and young children at critical stages of the life cycle.
The WHO nutrition programme is also committed to providing technical support to the federal and provincial governments on nutrition-specific and sensitive issues.
The parliament nested the first ever global forum on the SDGs and nutrition in February 2016, whereby the malnutrition situation in Pakistan was declared an emergency, according to the WHO.
The government of Sindh has recently adopted an Accelerated Action Plan for Reduction of Stunting and Malnutrition (AAP). The AAP has ambitious goals of reducing stunting from 48 percent to 30 percent by 2021 and to 15 percent by 2026 by increasing and expanding coverage of multi-sectoral interventions proven to reduce stunting in the first five years of life.
The Sindh Enhancing Response to Stunting and Malnutrition project supports implementation of the AAP with a more modest objective of reducing stunting in Sindh by at least 1 percentage point per year from 48 percent to 43 percent over the life of the project.
The overall objective is to improve the health and nutrition status of the people of the Badin district, with special focus on the status of women and children. The project aims to address the issue of chronic malnutrition (stunting) and its prevention besides saving the lives of malnourished children of 6- 59 months.
The project will also ensure that GAM (Global Acute Malnutrition) rate in the affected area is maintained below the 10 percent emergency threshold by improving nutritional status through a provision of effective nutritional services at the community and facility level that meet national and internationally recommended minimum standards of care for the population affected by emergency.
The writer is a journalist and peace activist. He writes on health, heritage and environment issues. He can be reached at