Quite disturbing: Pakistan nutrition survey

The Nutrition Section of Pakistan's Planning Commission, working in collaboration with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, launched a National Nutrition Survey 2001-02 on Monday, November 17, 2003

 
Published: Monday 15 December 2003

-- (Credit: Piers Allison)Pakistan, National Nutrition Survey 2001-02

The Nutrition Section of Pakistan's Planning Commission, working in collaboration with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, launched a National Nutrition Survey 2001-02 on Monday, November 17, 2003.

The survey aimed at reviewing Pakistan's present nutrition situation, establishing new trends, looking for associated factors that influenced the nutrition status and identifying issues related to the policy. The Federal Bureau of Statistics prepared the samples drawn from across the country, including the Northern Areas. A total of 42 teams, each headed by a doctor, collected the information.

What the survey has revealed is quite disturbing. An estimated 38 per cent of children aged six months to five years are reported underweight. Another 36.8 per cent are stunted. Although figures such as these represent an improvement since such a survey was last made 17 years ago (thus, the population of the underweight has reduced from 51.5 per cent to 41.5 per cent), the present situation is quite grim (after all, 41.5 per cent is quite a staggering figure, isn't it?). Other startling figures from the survey revealed that 12.5 per cent of women were malnourished, with the figure jumping to 16.1 per cent for lactating mothers; 6.5 per cent of school children aged six to 12 years were found to have palpable or visible goitre, with the percentage rising to 21.2 in the case of mothers; while 22.9 per cent of school children and 36.5 per cent of mothers were found to be severely iodine-deficient.

Said A R Kemal, director, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (pide) at the formal launch of the survey, "We were expecting to find high levels of malnutrition, but to find that 38 percent of our children are underweight is worrisome." (pide conducted the survey on behalf of the Planning Commission.) Kemal said the findings highlighted the need for such surveys to be carried out as regularly as possible, so that the findings could then be applied towards working for a comprehensive solution. "How are we going to provide people with better nutrition if we don't know what they are suffering from?" he asked.

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