Malnutrition is the underlying cause of one in every three child deaths across the globe as every year about 2.6 million children die because of it. In Pakistan, rise in food prices has given a further rise to this phenomenon, where it accounts for up to 35 per cent of under five child mortality. This was the crux of a report by Save the Children titled “A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition” launched at the National Library on Wednesday.
The report reveals that 38 per cent families have been forced to cut their spending on food due to the soaring food prices and 22 per cent failed to provide enough food to their children throughout the year. Overall, various estimates state 24-40 per cent of the country’s population is living below the poverty line. The report held the recent economic shocks and sharp rises in the food prices responsible for making access to nutritious diet increasingly difficult.
Meanwhile, extensive flooding in the country, according to the report, also had a crucial part in the startling development. The floods destroyed crops and livelihoods, contributing further increase in prices, due to which in Pakistan 58 per cent of households are now considered food insecure.
Pakistan along with Bangladesh, India, Nigeria and Peru is among the top ranked countries that have more than half of the world’s malnourished children. About 43.6 per cent children in the country are officially reported stunted and the rate has not decreased but has actually grown by almost 50 per cent in the last 10 years. The report warns that if no concerted action is taken, Pakistan will have the highest percentage of stunted children population over the next 15 years.
Health and Nutrition Specialist Dr Qudsia Uzma said Anemia and Vitamin A deficiency remained unchanged in Pakistan since National Nutrition Survey 2001. She added that along with price hike, little awareness among general public about importance and impact of nutrition on their health, and lac of maternal education are one of the major causes behind malnutrition.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2012.