Saturday, June 22, 2019

Pakistan and Child Hunger

Despite abundance of food, child malnutrition is rife in Pakistan. Four in 10 children under 5 years of age are stunted in the country.

According to the country's National Nutrition Survey for the years 2018-19, one in every three children is underweight.

According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) child growth standards, stunting is a harmful complication of malnutrition and can simply be defined as being shorter than the average height for one's age.
According to the Global Nutrition Report 2018, there are 10.7 million stunted children in Pakistan. Owing to widespread poverty, many families cannot afford a nutritious diet with the recommended intake of protein, fat, minerals and vitamins.

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require that governments worldwide end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition by 2030, particularly for the poor and vulnerable sections of society, including infants. Pakistan's national survey results, however, reveal that no considerable progress has been made on these fronts in the country.
 Four out of every 10 children aged under 5 are stunted, while nearly 5 million children in the same age group suffer from wasting, or low weight for their height. In total, 18% of the children aged under five suffer from wasting.

Wasting is also a strong predictor of mortality among children.

The survey also showed that nearly 13% of children between the ages of 2 and 5 years faced some form of functional disability. Furthermore, one in every eight adolescent girls and one in every five adolescent boys suffered from being underweight, while over half of adolescent girls were anemic.
"Children who are born small due to poor maternal nutrition start life with a huge disadvantage. Stunting, for example, is one of Pakistan's biggest nutrition-related challenges, and has its roots in pregnancy when mothers do not get adequate nutrition," Aida Girma, country representative for the UNICEF in Pakistan, told DW.
Ram Ratan, the medical superintendent at the Mithi hospital, explained, "Mothers' poor nutrition and diet patterns are the major causes of babies' death and malnutrition," he said.
This is compounded by Pakistan's patriarchal culture and gender-based discrimination, say observers. In most households, women often have less food to eat than their male relatives. And the cultural norm of women eating after the male members of the family finish their meals as well as young-aged marriages have also contributed to the problem. Bearing large numbers of children from a young age not only takes a toll on women's health, but also impacts the well-being of the fetus and the ability to breastfeed a newborn. In Pakistan, only 38% of babies are fed breast milk exclusively during their first six months in line with UN recommendations.

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