QUETTA: Provincial Health Secretary Saleh Muhammad Nasar has said that launching of Infant Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Strategy 2018-22 is a good omen as it will pave the way for better nutrition-related activities across the province.
“All resources will be utilised for the implementation of the policy,” said the health secretary while addressing a seminar on ‘Balochistan Nutrition Programme for Mothers and Children’ (BNPMC) at a local hotel in Quetta on Saturday.
“The goal of the IYCF Strategy is to improve the nutritional status, growth and development, survival of the infants and young children in Balochistan through optimal practices during emergency and non-emergency situations,” he said. “Malnutrition is a critical problem being faced by Pakistan but the severity portrays a dismal picture in Balochistan and the role being played by the developing partners is very responsive and commendable.”
BNPMC Provincial Coordinator Ali Nasir Bugti said, “Malnutrition rates in Balochistan are alarmingly high. Currently, more than half of all children under five are stunted – have low growth for their age – and 16 per cent of the population is malnourished. Anaemia affects 70 per cent of the children and three quarters of pregnant and breast-feeding women.”
He further said that Balochistan was in need of a comprehensive provincial IYCF strategy to help the provincial government and other relevant stakeholders respond to issues and needs related to child malnutrition.
UNICEF Health Specialist Dr Amir Akram said, “Provincial IYCF strategy builds on past and continuing achievements in IYCF in the province. It identifies the comprehensive supply and demand side actions that need to be taken to improve and maintain a conducive environment through effective legislation, policies standards for the protection of optimum IYCF practices, and to strengthen the capacity of health services and communities to promote and support the nutritional needs of infants and young children.”
He said, “The role of the critical partners – government, UN agencies, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations and other concerned stakeholders– are also identified to ensure that collective action contributes to the full attainment of the IYCF strategy.”
Nutrition Cell LMO Dr Rubina Mir highlighted the main thematic areas of the strategy and elaborated that “under this strategy a conclusive strategy will be created, and under this document conducive legal policy and coordination environment for the protection, promotion and support of IYCF, to specify roles and responsibilities of partners in promoting appropriate IYCF practices, to standardise IYCF practices for improved infant and child health, to target the critical window of first 1,000 days to reduce stunting and under nutrition, and to address IYCF under critical circumstances will be obtained”.
Adding more to the specific objectives, she said, “This strategy includes increase in the percentage of newborns, who are breastfed within one hour of birth, from 63.4 per cent to 75 per cent (early initiation of breastfeeding) by 2022, increase the percentage of infants aged less than six months, who are exclusively breastfed, from 26.8 per cent to 45 per cent (exclusive breastfeeding) by 2022, increase the percentage of children aged six to eight months, who are breastfed and receive semisolid foods, from 48.6 per cent to 58.8 per cent by 2022, increase the percentage of children aged 12-15 months, who are still breastfed, from 72.3 per cent to 80.5 per cent (continued breastfeeding) by 2022.
“Optimal feeding and care is essential for the prevention of poor nutrition and maximisation of health, growth and development of infants and young children.”
Optimal feeding practices from age 0-2 years, known collectively as infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices, include: early initiation of breastfeeding (within an hour from birth); exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life; age-appropriate, nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods starting at six months; continued breastfeeding for 24 months or beyond; and dietary diversity and adequate meal frequency among children under two years of age.
Suboptimal IYCF practices, especially low prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding and inappropriate complementary feeding practices of infants and children, are considered as the major factors contributing to the continuing problem of malnourished children.
The NNS 2011 showed that 27 per cent of children had been exclusively breastfed, 63 per cent had early initiation, 54 per cent had age appropriate breastfeeding and only 2.1 per cent children of six to 23 months of age had minimum acceptable dietary diversity in Balochistan.
Appropriate IYCF practices from early childhood are of key importance for normal growth, as well as to prevent stunting in the long run.
On the occasion, the development partners said that the 1,000 days (constituting nine months of pregnancy and the first two years of life) is a crucial period as the damages of malnutrition during this period have profound and largely irreversible effects on health, brain development, intelligence, educational attainment, and productivity. Development partners of nutrition intervention have appreciated the efforts of BNPMC and endorsed full support in the near future.