Malnutrition and stunting

Malnutrition has increased due to lack of work caused by Covid-induced lockdowns

October 14, 2021

Poverty is the mother of malnutrition. Around 42% of children under the age of five in Pakistan are malnourished. Of these, more than 17% children of this age group are stunted as a result of under-nourishment. Malnourishment and stunting are widespread in Sindh, parts of Balochistan and southern Punjab. In south Punjab, the lack of nourishment is as high as 48% in district Rajanpur. The seriousness of the issue can be judged from the fact that PM Imran Khan mentioned it in his first address to the nation after assuming office and his government’s resolve to eradicate the problem in a short time. Malnutrition and stunting begins with pregnant women. Physically weak and anaemic women give birth to weak babies; these mothers are unable to breastfeed their infants and, in later stages, poor parents are unable to give a healthy diet to their children. This results in stunted growth, which cannot be reversed after the childhood age.

Among the have-nots in all areas of the country, malnutrition has increased due to lack of work caused by Covid-induced lockdowns. A survey carried out in Sindh has revealed that most young mothers in 13 districts of the province are under-nourished. Conditions were particularly unsatisfactory in Badin district and the Tharparkar region. Poverty has driven many residents of these two areas to other cities of the province in search of livelihood. After the findings of the survey, the provincial government started taking remedial measures in the 13 most affected districts by providing pregnant women nutritious food from the start of conception and also to babies. Families of such women are also given cash hand-outs. Besides being physically weak, malnourished and stunted children have low IQ. All this results in their low productivity in later years. There are a host of health issues like adulteration of food and the use of salt in flour dough, rice preparations, sweet toffees and in food items ad infinitum. These problems need immediate attention of the authorities.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2021.

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