By Abdul Shakoor
QUETTA: Malnutrition is a global issue affecting a vast majority of the population, mostly inhabitants of the continents of Africa and Asia. It is widely acknowledged to be addressed promptly and seriously by the agencies working for the betterment of human lives
across the globe.
Pakistan, despite having blessed with abundant natural resources and assisted by geographical condition, is unfortunately among world’s leading malnutrition countries that are home to 90 per cent of undernourished people.
The poverty, across the globe, alone is the major contributor to ever increasing number of malnourished but law and order, illiteracy, food insecurity, sub-standard food and, the most prominent, bad or poor governance have added more to the fury in the country, especially in the province of Balochistan.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared emergency in the province as the number of undernourished women and children as compared to other parts of the country is increasing day by day which now stands above 52.5 % against 44 % at national level.
Woes and worries associated with problem are increasing woman and infant death rates, underweight new born babies and putting this marginalized group vulnerable to different diseases.
Since 10 out of 20 food insecure districts of the country belong to Balochistan, the efforts of the UN agencies, local government and other NGOs could not achieve as much to bring significant change in the nutritional status of the province.
Dr Abid Panezai, Health Specialist at Balochistan Nutrition Cell, admitting failure and terming it accessibility problem said the health teams could hardly cover 10 percent of the targeted malnourished children and women in only five districts out of nine.
Even the enrollment of undernourished population could not be made due to lack of skilled manpower in the field, paucity of funds and law and order situation.
Astonishingly, more than 50% of the areas in the province are without Lady Health Workers (LHWs), who are meant to provide more health awareness than medical facilities.
The situation worsens when people fail even to get treated against preventable diseases resulting in the increase of death rates, especially children below five years. This number now unfortunately goes to 111 live
per thousand births and 97 among them do not make it to the age of
one year. Similarly, women mortality rate has also risen to alarming situation.
Nadeem Shahid, Health Advocacy Specialist, said more than 10,000 LHWs were required as 6720 LHWs were working for the entire Balochistan and majority of them was deployed in the urban areas.
The incumbent government, he said, took initiative to launch nutrition programme for 15 districts but they were dropped to seven but work on the curtailed programme even could not be initiated.
He said Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy was approved which was still pending with the Planning and Development Department to take off.
Balochistan Health Minister Mir Rehmat Saleh Baloch when contacted said his government was working seriously to address the issue but health practitioners were reluctant and unwilling to serve in the far flung rural areas, which were more affected.
The WFP, WHO and UNICEF are all engaged in the province. The WFP is supporting treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) and Unicef and WHO are supporting Treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
Lola Castro, the country head of World Food Programme, informed that “About 12,598 SAM children, 1,612 SAM children with complications and 57,589 MAM children of 6-59 months and 38,944 malnourished PLWs were provided treatment in 2014.”
She said the WFP had also rehabilitated over 2,500 km water courses, besides assisting the Balochistan government for the preparation of Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy.
The situation is still no doubt unsatisfactory but only good governance can address and assure solution to these issues successfully, as pledged by the world leaders in Peru to make policies and invest significant resources to reducing child malnutrition.
” It’s proven that good governance is crucial to address child malnutrition,” says World Vision Chief Executive Officer Kevin Jenkins.