Nourishing the under nourished

With over 40% of children under five suffering from stunted growth and 37% of households being declared food insecure, Pakistan is running out of time to address the hunger and malnutrition crises in the country. While a lot can be debated on these figures, it is critical to remember that this number represents real children and adults who need immediate assistance in overcoming their health challenges. It goes to show that almost 1 in every 34 children in Pakistan is in the eye of the malnourishment storm.

With only six years left to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the South Asian countries continue to be the hardest-hit region on earth in terms of climate emergencies – a phenomenon where flash floods, heat, and deforestation have wreaked havoc on the subcontinent’s already bleak nutritional reserves. As of the last two years, a staggering 5 million children all across South Asia are at risk of being declared wasted (too thin for their height) by the World Health Organization. While local and federal governments, NGOs, and international organizations continue their efforts towards salvaging these young lives, it’s important to mobilize every resource at our disposal to hasten relief for these children. One shining example of this is the RAAST school. Initially established as a centre for education for underprivileged children, it is now a complete institution. From imparting education and skill-based training for women and children to securing employment and social support, the school has transformed into a community centre over the years, providing a platform for the people of Qayyumabad, Karachi. Besides nourishing the minds of bright students, it has also taken upon the task of serving the nutritional needs of their community members.

Since 2022, RAAST School in collaboration with FrieslandCampina Engro Pakistan Limited has been providing milk to students enrolled in the school, which is a great advantage for families who cannot afford to provide a nutritious diet to their children, especially during the tough times brought on by the deteriorating economic conditions in the country. Sadia Agha, General Secretary of RAAST Welfare Society, while reflecting on the ongoing nutritional battle in Pakistan, says: “Given the rising prevalence of malnutrition in the country, a minimum of 10 million children suffering from it, such partnerships are integral in protecting children suffering from ailments brought on by the lack of a proper diet. We need to do more, we need to act quick, but most importantly – we need to act together”. This partnership shows how a successful nexus between community outreach, CSR investments, and awareness and empowerment initiatives between public and private entities can help kickstart grassroots reforms, enabling us to strengthen the weakest of us while pushing against the idea of imminent malnutrition across the globe.

Abdul Ahad

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