LAHORE: The Punjab government has launched Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat/ programme with support of Micronutrient Initiative (MI) at P&D department as in Pakistan 45% of children are stunted, this was the third highest percentage of stunted children in the world and means that more than 9.6 million suffering from mal-nutrition.
Addressing the launch ceremony Provincial Minister for Labour and Human Resource Ashfaq Sarwar, said Punjab Government was committed to improve the nutrition status of its population, especially children and women. Nutrition has always been an ignored and less addressed subject.
He reiterated that Fortification Initiatives, SUN Movement and Multi-sectoral Nutrition Strategy would play a vital role in improving the nutrition situation in the province. “My parliamentary colleagues would work together and would play their role in raising voice, prioritising budgetary allocation and advocacy for necessary legislative cover”, Raja Ashfaq added. Khawaja Imran Nazir, Parliamentary secretary for Health said Pakistan is currently facing a silent crisis of malnutrition that is amongst the worst in the world and had not improved for decades.
Results from the 2011 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) indicated minimal change over the last decade in terms of core maternal and childhood nutrition indicators in Pakistan. In children under 5 years of age, 43.7% were stunted as compared to 41.6% in 2001; 15.1% were wasted compared to 14.3% in 2001 and 31.5% were underweight compared to 42% in 2001. Vitamin A status had deteriorated and there had been little or no improvement in other micronutrients eg Iron Deficiency Anaemia – 61.9%, Zinc deficiency 39.2%, and vitamin D deficiency – 40.0%.
The only success story has been iodine status which improved. He assured his full support regarding legislation for mandatory food fortification programs in Punjab that would help in reaching fortified food, to poorest of the poor in the province. Muhammad Jahanzaib khan Chairman, Planning and Development Punjab thanked micronutrient initiative and all partners for their role in supporting the provincial government to overcome the menace of malnutrition in Punjab.
The implications of these nutrient deficiencies for economic growth and development were huge and studies showed that the macroeconomic costs were considerable in terms of year-in & year-out gross domestic product (GDP) foregone, Chairman P&D assured that the Punjab Planning & Development Department would provide assistance to the Punjab Micronutrient Initiative to enhance effective co-ordination between the provincial departments and SUN Movement Secretariat Dr Shabana Haider, Member (Health) Planning and Development Board said that the launch of sun secretariat here at P&D also complements launch of similar milestone events like MSNS, National survey etc. Reducing malnutrition in Punjab was one of the greatest development challenges.
She said that high malnutrition rate in an agrarian economy like that of Punjab jeopardises economy, social progress, it jeopardizes our children’s prospects of survival and growth, and it jeopardizes our nation’s capacity to move forward.
Just to mention if we improve the nutritional status there is a 3 percentage point’s increase in GDP viz & viz if we improve energy status that causes an increase of 2% age points by launching & placing the SUN secretariat in P&D. the Government has signalled its commitment to nutrition at highest levels. Pakistan became a signatory to SUN roadmap last year meaning more ownership & stewardship for nutrition & better co-ordination support between donors & departments. Dr Tausif Akhtar Janjua, Country Director Micronutrient Initiative (MI), highlighted the role of MI in addressing malnutrition in the country.
He briefed the participants about the positive impact of Universal salt Iodization, Vitamin A supplementation and upcoming project of Wheat flour fortification. He said in Pakistan 45% of children are stunted, this was the third highest percentage of stunted children in the world and means that more than 9.6 million. The three types (iron, iodine and protein energy malnutrition) were responsible for 3-4 percent of GDP loss in Pakistan in any given year.
Source: Business Recorder