Children in Pakistan are severely malnourished. Most of them are short and underweight for their age. This poses a risk for their growth and leaves them ill-equipped to handle future challenges.
Over 40% of children under five years of age are stunted, according to the National Nutrition Survey conducted in 2018 and published in June. When these children enter the workforce 20 years later, it will be difficult for them to work. This was highlighted on SAMAA TV’s programme Naya Din on Monday.
Provincial programme coordinator for the reduction of stunting and malnutrition in Sindh’s livestock sector, Dr Nazeer Kalhoro, explained the reasons behind the high rate of stunting in children. He said that the mother’s level of education plays a huge role in determining the child’s health.
They found that in cases where the mother was uneducated, the stunting rate was the highest: 57%. When the mother had completed primary education, the stunting rate was 50%, whereas the stunting rate was 37% in children whose mothers had completed matriculation.
“In order to track stunting, we take the weight and height for the first 1,000 days from conception. The first 1,000 days are very important for the child,” said Dr Kalhoro.
The mother’s health during this period had a direct impact on the child’s health. Dr Kalhoro said that access to healthcare and food were the second and third most important factors respectively.
He added that poverty had a great part to play in the rising rates of malnutrition. If you compare the data across urban and rural areas, the stunting rate is higher in rural areas. This was due to lack of access to healthcare and nutritious food.
Dr Kalhoro said that improving hygiene and diet was important to immediately address the issue of malnutrition. He added that the Sindh government had been playing its part to curb malnutrition since 2017.
“We are creating awareness in 265,000 households. There is a lot of misinformation spread on social media. People read inaccurate stories and stop eating certain foods. They should talk to experts and rely on their opinion,” he said.
“In other developed countries, they eat around 110 to 114kg of meat per capita per year. Whereas we are still consuming between 12 and 14kg per capita,” he said.
Comparing data across the region, Dr Kalhoro said that Sri Lanka had the lowest rate of stunting at 17%. Pakistan had the second worst rate, preceded by India at 48%.