Nearly half of all households in Pakistan are unable to meet their nutritional needs, the first ever survey of its kind in the country has revealed.
According to the National Nutrition Survey 2018, poverty keeps more than 50 per cent of Pakistani families from having two meals a day, leading to severe dietary deficiencies, the Express News reported.
As a result, as many as 40.2 per cent of all children in the country are affected by chronic malnutrition and stunted growth, which inhibits both their cognitive and physical development, the exercise carried out by the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) revealed.
The survey also discovered that 36.9 per cent of Pakistani households remain food insecure and lack reliable access to affordable nutritious food in sufficient amounts.
To counter the nutritional emergency as quickly as possible, the federal government has drafted a food fortification bill for the first time in Pakistan’s history, Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA) Secretary General Dr Khalid Shafi said.
The bill, among other things, will make addition of micronutrients mandatory in items like flour and ghee, he said.
Among the key findings of the survey is that only 48.4 per cent of women in Pakistan breastfeed their children during infancy. It also found malnutrition to be at least partially a hereditary issue as women who lacked necessary nutrients in their diet gave birth to weak children.
Four out of every 10 children under the age of five in Pakistan were discovered to be affected by stunted growth and lack of education and awareness was found to be a significant factor behind this.
The study also discovered dietary discrimination in the favour of boys over girls in a significant number of families in the country.
The objective of the survey was to draw the attention of policymaking institutes towards the ever-growing problem of malnutrition among Pakistani children.