Around 336 million people are chronically hungry in South Asia, with one-third of all child deaths linked to malnutrition.
Issues such as the one mentioned above, were discussed by participants at the South Asian Regional Knowledge Forum on Tuesday to encourage the world community to provide innovative ideas and timely intervention to save the lives of around one billion children suffering from chronic hunger.
The two-day event titled ‘sharing lessons from community experiences and improving infant and young child nutrition’ was held in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and was jointly organised by the World Bank, UN children’s fund and South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiatives (Safansi).
Participants from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal highlighted how despite economic growth in the region, two thirds of all children suffering from malnutrition were South Asians. Akhtar Rashid, who was representing the government of Punjab, said that a mobile phone service had been launched in the province to mobilise the community and create awareness about breastfeeding.
“We have selected a few villages where SMS service has been started. The social mobilisers identify people on the field before sending them text messages,” said Rashid, adding that the service had proved to be a great success.
South Asia has the highest rate of malnutrition, making it the single largest cause of child mortality in the region. Underweight children account for over 33% in Afghanistan, 41% in Bangladesh, 43% in India, 39% in Nepal, 31% in Pakistan and 22% in Sri Lanka.
The host country, Nepal, received a Millennium Development Goal award on its commitment and progress towards attaining the maternal mortality rate (MMR), set by the United Nations.
“We have reduced the MMR from 415 deaths in 2000 to 229 deaths in 2010 per 100,000 live births,” said National Planning Commission chief Atma Ram Pandey.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.