Rates of malnutrition in flood-affected areas of Sindh are worse than in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, said Dr Mohammad Atif Habib, a senior research instructor at Aga Khan University Hospital, during a seminar on ‘Dialogue on nutrition issues in Sindh’ on Wednesday.
Sindh health department’s additional secretary Dr Khalid Hussain Shaikh referred to the National Nutrition Survey 2011, which found a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 17.5 per cent in children below the age of five years in the province. Shaikh added that 17.5 per cent of pregnant and lactating women were also found to be malnourished.
Shaikh acknowledged the support extended by agencies like Save the Children, which organised the seminar, and the World Food Programme, World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) after floods wreaked havoc in the province in 2010 and 2011. Dr Habib added that the floods ruined 2.2 million acres of crops in Sindh, and put 72 per cent of the province’s population at the risk of food insecurity.
Dr Shaikh also shared the findings of the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition project, which was launched for assessing the food situation in 10 flood-affected districts of Sindh. Of the 1,469,415 children screened, 167,350 were found suffering from moderate malnutrition and 71,936 from severe acute malnutrition. Similarly, of the 533,123 pregnant women who were screened, 99,426 were found undernourished.
Save the Children Pakistan director David Wright said that his organisation had helped more than 60,000 malnourished people in Badin through specialised food programmes.
“Without [the presence of] long term nutrition programmes in Pakistan, the country will have the highest percentage of stunted children in the world within the next decade.” Save the Children’s Global Nutrition Advocacy Strategy and Report 2011 reveals that malnutrition is responsible for 35 per cent of deaths of children under five years of age in Pakistan. Dr Shaikh said that such programmes should not only be launched in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2012.