ISLAMABAD: The National Nutrition Survey 2018-19 has painted a bleak picture of children’s health, stating that “every third child” in the country “is underweight”.
The survey was released on Monday during a ceremony chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and attended by Health Secretary Zahid Saeed, National AIDS Control Programme Manager Dr Basir Achakzai, Unicef representative and others.
The survey was compiled by experts working under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and Unicef.
The report stated, “Breast-feeding has increased in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), while malnutrition in Balochistan and erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).”
It stated, “Every four out of 10 children are malnourished. Over 40% children are affected by malnutrition in which the number of girls is higher than that of boys.”
Giving the break-up of the malnourished children, the report stated, “In the country, 40.9% boys are malnourished, while 39.4% girls are victims of malnutrition and 28% are underweight.
“Over 9% children are overweight. During the last seven years, the number of overweight children has doubled as in 2011 only 5% children were overweight while now the ratio stands at 9.5%. About 50% girls in Pakistan suffer from anemia while 48.4 % children are given mother’s milk. The ratio of children being fed mother’s milk stands at over 60% in K-P.
“In Pakistan, 36.9% of the population face malnutrition. In Balochistan, 50% people are malnourished while in erstwhile Fata the ratio is 54.6%.”
Addressing the ceremony, Health Adviser Dr Zafar Mirza said, “In line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Ministry of Health is taking drastic measures to overcome malnutrition.”
Mirza said, “The data obtained from the survey will help in policy making and devising strategies.”
He said they would join hands with the provinces in taking effective steps in the field of nutrition in light of the data obtained.
“The incumbent government has already decided to tackle the biggest issue – undernourishment, especially in women and children,” said the PM’s aide, adding that the national survey had revealed that 40% children under the age of five were victims of stunting.
Mirza acknowledged the fact that positive signs regarding more women feeding their milk to their newborns were received. “About 10% improvement has been recorded in mothers feeding their children their own milk.”
Mirza said, “The ratio of people consuming clean water has increased, whereas only 21% water has been found fit for consumption.”
He said information and steps regarding women giving birth had improved. “About 63% women come to clinics when they are pregnant, while 68% avail the expertise of experts, which has reduced the ratio of death among newborns,” said Mirza.
About anemia, Mirza said, “Several women and children suffer from this condition. It has been reported that over 50% children suffer from anemia, while 62% lack Vitamin A.”
He said that there had been an increase in the consumption of iodine salt, which “is a positive sign”.