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malnutrition in pakistan
Children are more prone to malnutrition than adults. Half of the children in Pakistan are malnourished, leading to mental and physical health problems. These children are often living in poverty.

Malnutrition caused 54 percent of children’s deaths in 2001. Babies are often underweight from birth due to their mothers’ malnourishment while bearing them. It was reported in 2001 that 14 percent of pregnant women were underweight and 2.5 percent of them were extremely thin. Malnourished children often get infectious diseases and since they do not have the right nutrients to fight off these diseases, it often leads to a never-ending cycle.

Many surveys have indicated that sub-clinical deficiencies in iron, zinc and Vitamin A are widespread among schoolchildren and pregnant women. In the national nutrition survey in 2001 to 2002, it was implied that 66.5 percent of 0-5 year olds were found to be iron deficient, 37 percent with zinc deficiency and 12.5 percent had VAD. It has been found that 5.9 percent, 36.5 percent, 41 percent and 45 percent of pregnant women had sub-clinical deficiencies in VA, iodine, zinc and iron respectively.

One of the more significant, potential causes for malnutrition in Pakistan is the low production of food. Cereal is a big part of Pakistan’s diet, making 62 percent of a person’s energy. Pakistan is one of the few countries to primarily consume milk, but the consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish is very low. The reason fruits and vegetables are hardly consumed in Pakistan is due to the weather conditions being inadequate for growing crops, and there being hardly any market facilities for the products.

Other causes for malnutrition include poverty, unawareness, population growth, political instability, loss of food stock due to poor harvest and natural calamities. Undernourishment in children has been directly linked with illiterate mothers, low incomes and bigger families.

Here are a few ways malnourishment in Pakistan can be fixed — better farming techniques like using fertilizer that can produce better crops, government policies that ensure food security, programs educating people on how to eat cheaply properly, family planning and a controlled population.

— Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: World Bank, JPMA, The News, FAO
Photo: Save the Children