Following alarming figures of micronutrient deficiency among children, pregnant and nursing women in Pakistan in the National Nutrition Survey, 2011, the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has extended its agreement with Micronutrient Initiative (MI), an NGO, to address micronutrient-related needs in the country.
According to the 2011 survey, 61.9 per cent of children under the age of five are anemic while 43.8 per cent are iron deficient. Relatedly, 54 per cent are said to be vitmain deficient, 39.2 zinc deficient and 40 per cent vitamin D deficient. The prevalence of micronutrient deficiency among pregnant and nursing women in the country is 52.1 per cent, according to the survey.
WFP and MI, through a joint effort, will continue their food fortification programme and advocate the need to address micronutrient-related malnutritions among the people of Pakistan.
“WFP’s partnership with MI, in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan and the food industry, will sustain and intensify the ongoing efforts for food fortification in Pakistan, aiming to holistically target every aspect of the operation from the policy level to the supply chains and via demand creation,” said WFP Deputy Country Director Peter Scott-Bowden.
“We are committed to working together so we can adequately provide fortified food and nutrient supplements to those at risk of micronutrient deficiencies. This will boost physical and mental growth among children, and increase labour productivity among adults, enabling them to reach their full human potential,” he added.
The survey identified the salt iodisation programme as the only successful nutrition intervention nationwide, mainly due to strong government ownership and active participation of WFP, MI and other partners such as Unicef and Gain.
In comparison with findings of the previous survey in 2001, the study found that biochemical iodine deficiency declined from 57 per cent to 18 per cent among mothers and from 40 per cent to 12 per cent among schoolaged children. Moreover, maternal goiter declined from 21 per cent in 2001 to just three per cent in 2011 mainly due to households’ increased use of iodised salt from 17 per cent in 2001 to 69 per cent in 2011.
“Stronger collaboration and joint efforts with national and provincial governments under the Scale-Up for Nutrition umbrella and partnership with the industry will certainly enhance the nutrition security of the population” said MI Country Director Dr Tausif Janjua.
This collaboration also aims to strengthen public and private sector capacities at national, provincial and district levels to locally produce fortified food, provide technical assistance and advocate for national food and nutrition policies that address micronutrient deficiencies.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2014.