ISLAMABAD: According to the recent National Nutrition Survey, around 60 per cent of Pakistan’s total population is facing food insecurity, and in these households, almost 50 per cent women and children were malnourished.
The findings of this survey were presented in a research conference of the Population Association of Pakistan (PAP) at National University of Science and Technology (Nust) on Wednesday.
The survey showed that stunting (short height for age), wasting (low weight for height) and micronutrient deficiencies were widespread in Pakistan.
According to the survey, 43.7 per cent children under age five had stunted growth in 2011 compared to 41.6 per cent in 2001. Similarly, 15.1 per cent children were in the wasting category in 2011 compared to 14.3 per cent in 2001.
Furthermore, an estimated 35 per cent of child deaths (under age 5) in the country are linked to malnutrition, while the World Health Organisation labels a national average of 15 per cent or above as an “emergency”.
President PAP Shahnaz Wazir Ali said Pakistan’s growing population posed a serious threat to food insecurity. Another challenge was that no population census had been carried out in the country since 1998. “It is unfortunate that routinely collected information and research evidence is available but it seldom makes its way to policy development and setting pragmatic directions,” she said.
Ms Ali said policies should be focused on people rather than on statistics so that choice, social values, human rights and gender equality could be valued. Furthermore, it was important that provincial and federal authorities demonstrated full commitment to family planning services and commodities, she added.
Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal explained the urgent need for action to address Pakistan’s unsatisfactory development indicators. He said slow progress on development had to be reversed, and all political parties should speak with one voice on the country’s future. “There would be checks and balances put in place and public sector performance will be improved,” he said.
Earlier, Nust Rector Lt Gen (retired) Mohammad Asghar welcomed the guests and signaled the start of the two-day conference. He said students were the future leaders of Pakistan and must be conversant with the impact of a rapidly growing population on the economy and national development.