The health department of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) has failed to reduce malnutrition and infant mortality across the region.
According to a recent United Nations (UN) survey, out of nearly 17,000 pregnant or lactating women and more than 60,000 children who were examined 38 per cent women and 21 per cent children were found malnourished
The World Food Programme-funded survey, revealed in a report recently, was conducted in Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Neelum and Hattian Bala. It stated that malnourishment was causing physical and mental disabilities on a wider scale and was also a major cause of infant mortality.
AJK health officials say the infant mortality rate in the region is 56 per 1,000 live births.
According to an official of the AJK health department, lack of official coordination and unavailability of food supplements are the main causes behind the alarming figures. The official further said that for the last three decades, the issue of malnutrition has not been taken seriously by successive AJK governments.
AJK Director General of Health Dr Abdul Qadoos, while talking to The Express Tribune, said the infant mortality rate in the region is dangerously high, adding that residents suffer from malnutrition due to lack of proper education. “More than food security, the issue is to guide people about high supplement foods which can only be addressed through coordinated efforts of the AJK government,” Qadoos added.
He said less food intake, low income, less domestic production, local food trends, lack of awareness, poor hygiene, lack of health facilities, difficulty of access and official apathy are some of the causes of the disease.
Based on the survey, UN officials have identified over 10,000 children and 7,000 women to be given food supplements under the project.
The project, which is being implemented by the AJK Rural Support Programme (AJKRSP), a government-owned development organisation, also offers medical and therapeutic services to complicated cases of malnutrition. Moreover, these health services are being funded by the World Health Organisation and Unicef.
AJKRSP officials hope they will be able to extend their supplementary food deliveries to all the people registered under the project.
“The international community has to play a bigger role to tackle the problem and I hope they do,” said Ikhlaq Rasool, the chief executive of AJKRSP.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2013.