Despite the burgeoning of hundreds of new restaurants, large grocery stores, and the introduction of various types of food dishes from across other continents, Pakistan struggles with starvation and malnutrition. In fact, Pakistan has some of the worst rates in the world. According to Unicef’s data, Pakistan’s stunting rate is in the moderate to severe category, at 45 per cent. This means that nearly half of all children in our country experience stunted growth. In order to combat the phenomenon, an NGO, once again, has come in to rescue our future generations from the condition. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) will be introducing a food fortification programme in order to raise food nutrition standards, particularly in staple foods such as wheat, cereals, and oils. The project will be executed in conjunction with 1,000 mills and 100 oil producers across the country. Indeed, this logical step in the right direction is a welcome development, and one that is crucial to target child malnutrition.
Some 32 per cent of children in the country are underweight and this is quite a point to consider in the backdrop of the recently concluded Eidul Azha where thousands of kilogrammes of meat were distributed among the poor. Of course, one annual occasion to try and balance out the food availability gap for the poor is highly inefficient to even put a dent in the high rates of child malnutrition. While the intention to feed the poor by ordinary citizens might be there, the will of the government leadership is nowhere to be found. It seems the government’s only goal is to invite more financial aid into the country with a primary focus on the economy. However, it fails to realise that the overall health of the country’s population is an important factor when it comes to economic growth wherein children who have healthy physical and cognitive development will be able to participate in the growth of the economy as adults. Hopefully, the DFID’s programme will enable our leadership to acknowledge that.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2016.