‘2pc GDP lost because of high burden of malnutrition’

ISLAMABAD - Malnourishment affects cognitive and physical development of children, while the country is losing around 2% GDP because of high burden of malnutrition, speakers said on Monday. The Network for Consumer Protection in collaboration with Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) organized the event here for awareness on malnutrition and food fortification. Dr. Nausheen Hamid, Federal Parliamentary Secretary, National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination (NHSRC) and Senator Professor Dr. Mehr Taj Roghani, member Senate committee on NHSRC attended the meeting.

Dr. Nausheen Hamid appreciated the civil society efforts to fight against malnutrition. She extended all support in the development of standards for fortified food, their implementation and enforcement. She said that fortified food for all is achievable as the campaign for fortified iodize salt has been successful.  She emphasized on the need of creating awareness among masses to increase demand for fortified food. This event is very important for nutrition. It will contribute in ending malnutrition at gross root level. Government is ready to support civil society in order to address the issues of fortification and overall nutrition.

Senator Dr. Mehr Taj Roghani lamented the fact that the main reason for malnutrition is lack of breastfeeding. “If a child is exclusively fed for first six months on mothers’ milk and for two years along with other recommended foods then there won’t be any malnutrition in Pakistan. As even a malnourished mother can feed milk full of all micronutrients to a child,” said the Senator. She said that there is a need to create awareness about fortification. Breast feeding rate in Pakistan is very low. Breast feeding to newborn should be ensured because it is very first food for a child and has all the nutrients.

Dr Qaiser Munir Pasha, Country Director, GAIN said that “In the past micronutrient deficiency was addressed by health service related interventions and later it shifted to food science. Multi0sectoral approach is essential to end the nutrition crisis. Upcoming National Nutrition Survey is unique because it will provide an insight at district level and CSOs can easily analyse the situation of their respective districts and design interventions to address the issues.”

Food fortification, the addition of vitamins and minerals to common foods is an effective, affordable and safe measure to lower the burden of micronutrient deficiency, reducing economic loss due to malnutrition and making Pakistan healthier. We are supporting PM Imran Khan in the fight against malnutrition and government’s vision 2025 to address malnutrition, Dr Pasha added.

CEO, The Network Nadeem Iqbal said that civil society has a vibrant role to influence the stakeholders for improving the compliance to the standards of fortification through engagement with different stakeholders and enforcing the existing laws. These CSO’s also have very deep roots in the community and can influence the communities for increased demand for fortified food. Pakistan is losing 2-3% GDP annually because of high burden of malnutrition.

The lack of iron, vitamins A and D and other minerals limits ability to fight disease, making it a major contributor to high maternal newborn and child death rates.  PDHS revealed that newborn death rate is 42 per 1000 while childhood death rate is 74 per 1000. Malnourishment also affects cognitive and physical development, ultimately leading to reduced learning abilities and lower productivity in adulthood. The ruling PTI parliamentarians endorse civil society’s efforts to make food fortification campaign financially sustainable at district, tehsil and Union Council level to undo huge financial loss being caused by current state of malnutrition in the country. 

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