Malnourishment challenge

Many people in Pakistan suffer from serious deficiency of micronutrients in their food intake. The federal minister for food security recently told a workshop that around 177,000 children die every year before the age of five due to lack of micronutrients like zinc in the country and around 50 million persons too have little intake of micronutrients. Moreover, many children in the country suffer from malnutrition resulting in physical and mental stunting.

Pakistan ranks fifth in the world in terms of child malnutrition and third in terms of child deaths due to lack of sufficient and proper food. All this requires government’s attention to mend the serious state of malnutrition in the country. The deficit of micronutrients in food also causes loss of appetite and a weak immune system. Those with impaired natural immunity are more prone to contracting diseases and they take much time in recovering from illness. The government is, however, taking steps to combat malnourishment and under-nourishment. A programme has been launched to fortify food with minerals and nutrition under which wheat crop fortified with zinc is being cultivated on 360,000 hectares. This is expected to produce 1.6 million tonnes of fortified variety of wheat, the staple food in the country. Other mineral-rich varieties of wheat seeds have also been introduced for cultivation. This will likely help meet the minerals’ requirement of the general populace.

A government scheme to provide proper food to the poor in schools and homes is also underway in areas where the malnutrition level is high. There is the need to feed children vegetables and meat rich in minerals and vitamins. Milk is the most balanced food that contains nearly all vitamins, zinc, iron and other minerals in good proportions. However, since a large number of poor families have to feed many mouths with their limited resources, they are unable to give a healthy and nutritious diet to their children. It is here that state, NGOs and the society as a whole need to provide a helping hand.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2021.

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