Pakistan suffers from all three common forms of malnutrition: Report

KARACHI: Of the three common forms of malnutrition – under-five stunting, anaemia among women during the child-bearing years and adult overweight – Pakistan is among the countries that suffer from the first two and are also beginning to encounter the problem of adult obesity and related problems, says the Global Nutrition Report launched officially on November 20 at the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome.

The first-ever Global Nutrition Report tracks the progress of 193 member countries of the United Nations in improving their nutrition status.

The authors have also assessed the progress against the six global World Health Assembly nutrition targets that include reducing child stunting and wasting, anaemia in women of reproductive age, and low birth weight; preventing a worsening of child overweight; and increasing exclusive breastfeeding of infants.

“With urban transition and changing lifestyles, Pakistan is now facing a mixed pattern of malnutrition with high rates of under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies among poor women and children as well as increasing rates of overweight and obesity among adults,” said Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta, one of the authors, and founding director of the Centre for Excellence in Women and Child Health at Aga Khan University and co-director of the Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.

Dr Bhutta and colleagues examined the impact on stunting and wasting in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Pakistan of scaling up coverage of key nutrition-specific programmes, plus interventions related to optimizing birth intervals and improving water, sanitation, and hygiene.

The results showed that by scaling up key interventions, the model estimates reductions in the prevalence of stunting of 17 percent, 21 percent, and 18 percent from 2013 to 2025 in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Pakistan respectively. Predicted reductions in the prevalence of severe wasting were estimated at 65 percent, 62 percent and 58 percent respectively. The impacts on severe wasting are particularly noteworthy, whereas the estimated declines in stunting are modest and signal the need to increase both the coverage and quality of these interventions.

“The Aga Khan University is leading efforts to monitor nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in Pakistan and the region, including Afghanistan. In addition, scientists and public health specialists at the University are engaged in testing and implementing innovations and low-cost solutions to addressing the problems of stunting and wasting among infants and children as well as adolescent girls in various settings,” added Dr Bhutta.

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