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Underweight children, stunting rate highest in Sindh: survey

By Faiza llyas 2019-07-25
KARACHI: The province of Sindh has the highest number of underweight children 41.3 per cent in the country and the prevalence of stunting in the province, which is at 45.5pc, is also higher than the national average of 40.2pc, it emerged on Wednesday.

The data was shared at the launch of Sindh-specific findings of the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2018 here.

Jointly sponsored by Unicef, the national health services, regulation and coordination ministry and the British High Commission, the survey was undertaken by experts at the Aga Khan University. According to the data presented at the event, five out of every 10 children aged hve or under are stunted while two out of every 10 suffer from wasting.

The NNS 2018 is the fifth national nutrition survey since 1965 but the first to yield district-representativedata and to include adolescents and a component on water. The last such survey was conducted in 2011.

The study group included under-five children, adolescent boys and girls and women of reproductive age with primary focus on nutrition, access to water and its quality, hygiene and sanitation, food security and disability among children. The survey sample in Sindh consisted of 18,768 households.

It was identified that adolescent girls bear the double burden of malnutrition in the province and that 40pc of them were found to be anaemic.

Wasting was also found most prevalent among under-five kids in Sindh (23.3pc).

More than 10pc of the children between two and five years were identified to suffer from some form of functional disability.

The report stated that Sindh, Balochistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir had more undernourished women (of reproductive age group) while overweight and obesity were more pronounced in Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and KP`s newly merged districts.

`Malnourishment couldn`t be attributed to poverty` Speaking at the event, Sindh HealthMinister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said malnourishment couldn`t necessarily be attributed to poverty.

`It is largely due to lacl( of knowledge, inappropriate choice of food and also misconceptions about the food available,` she said, calling for concerted efforts to address the health-related challenges the province was facing.

Responding to the fact shared in the report about the high number of underweight children as well as growing obesity in a group of children, she said the situation was quite common across the country and thardiscrepan-cies were also quite evident.

`An alarming concern is also the factthat diabetes type one,peculiarto children, is also emerging as significant disease among children,` she said.

The health minister emphasised the need to impart health education at thegrass-root level and sensitise the masses about simple, efficient and cost-effective interventions to protect children against malnourishment.

She called for collaborative efforts and said each section of society, particularly the media, had to play a role in tackling health challenges.

`This report is an important document. This is so because it carries credible data and provides comprehensive, context-specific and evidence-based information encompassing all indicators related to nutrition,` she said.

The district-specific data, she hoped, would help policymakers in the province to plan and allocate resources in accordance with public needs.

The overall picture of the country`s nutrition status as presented in the national survey report 2018 is bleak and calls for close collaboration between the federal and provincial governments to address the emergency situation Pakistan faces in the health sector, particularly in the case of its children and mothers.

The event was also addressed by Unicef`s chief field officer for Sindh Cristina Brugiolo, Sindh Planning and Development Board chairperson Naheed Shah and founding director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at AKU Prof Zulfiqar Bhutta.