Malnutrition in Pakistani Children

Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and nutrients. The term malnutrition addresses 3 broad groups of condition which are under nutrition, which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age). Next is micro-nutrient-related malnutrition, which includes micro-nutrient deficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals) or micro-nutrient excess and last one is overweight, obesity and diet-related no communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers).

There are 165 million malnourished children under five years around the globe. Malnutrition accounts for at least half of all childhood deaths worldwide. Child malnutrition is generally only a problem of developing and under developed countries. Malnutrition is the fundamental cause of morbidity and mortality among the children. Almost half of the mortality in children around the globe is attributed to under nutrition. It also poses a risk to children’s physical and mental development, which results in poor academic achievement. It has been estimated that 170 million (30%) of children under the age of five in the world are moderately or severely stunted, and 110 million (19%) are moderately or severely underweight. In Asia, 51 million (8%) children under five years of age are wasted.

Pakistan has been reported to have one of the highest levels of prevalence of child malnutrition compared to other developing countries. According to the National Nutrition Survey, 33%of all children were underweight, nearly 44% were stunted, 15% are wasted, 50%were anemic, and 33%were anemic (iron deficiency). Children who are undernourished are more susceptible to the effects of infectious disease compared to children who are adequately nourished. Infections can in turn lead to more undernourishment as food intake is decreased during infection and this turns into a vicious cycle. One of the possible causes of such status could be declined production of food. Many landscapes that were once fertile are deemed barren due to environmental pollution caused by mankind. This in turn leads to less land that is available for farming.

Every year in Tharparkar, 1,500 die due to infections, malnutrition, and lack of proper medical facilities in the remote area, according to the health department. Pakistan is the riskiest place to be born as measured by its new born mortality rate. A baby born in Pakistan is almost 50 times more likely to die during his or her first month than a baby born in Japan, Iceland and Singapore.

The reasons behind malnutrition are poverty, unawareness, population growth, political instability, loss of food stock due to poor harvest and natural calamities are some of the important factors causing malnutrition amongst children. Malnutrition in Pakistani children has been directly linked to illiteracy of mothers, low family income and larger family size. Maternal undernourishment is also a contributing factor to babies being born with low-birth-weight. The increased basal metabolic rate due to acute and chronic illnesses may also precipitate the pre-existing malnutrition.

To solve the problems causing malnutrition among Pakistani children, the following measures are suggested. Various methods like the use of fertilizers would give a better crop. Policies should be made by the government to provide food security to the masses. Educational programs should be planned that elucidated the importance of various components in a child’s diet and also inform people about cheaper food alternatives that can provide them with vital nutrients. Controlling the growth of population and providing family planning guidance will lead to more food availability. Building the human capital of women and girls is important in correcting nutritional status of the nation and globe. General education and practical skills will broaden the range of choices women can make and give them more influence within their households and communities. Building women’s human capital makes them more productive workers, better mothers and stronger citizens. In the perspective of child health outcomes, given that women are typically the primary caretakers of children, redirecting of decision-making roles in favour of women has the potential to improve child health outcomes.

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