ISLAMABAD: An inter-provincial meeting agreed here on Tuesday to launch food fortification for fighting malnutrition.
The meeting was chaired by Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Saira Afzal Tarar and attended by Planning Secretary Hasan Nawaz Tarar and the health secretaries of the four provinces.
Director Nutrition Dr Baseer Khan Achakzai said that the nutrition indicators had deteriorated during the past 10 years.
He said that around 43.7 per cent children below five were stunted, 15.1pc wasted and 31.5pc underweight because of lack of nutrition, while 13.6pc women of reproductive age were underweight and 2.5pc severely thin.
Though Pakistan is an agricultural country with 61.45pc population based in rural areas, food production does not match with an annual population growth rate of 1.07pc.
Wheat provides the most calories but 60-80pc of its nutrients are lost during milling which results in vitamin-A, folic acid, iodine and zinc deficiencies, particularly among women and children.
It was observed that only Rs5 were required to add various minerals and vitamins to 20kg of flour. Iodine deficiency affects the IQ level among 17pc children, thus making them unproductive.
Experts recommended legislation for fortified wheat flour.
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Ms Tarar stressed on scaling up fortification initiatives to protect future generations from the deficiency of vitamins and minerals.
Referring to indicators reported by the National Nutrition Survey-2011, she suggested: “Under-nutrition, including micronutrient malnutrition, is one of the main causes of impaired physical and mental development among infants and children. Those who survive have less learning capacity that reduces their productivity in adulthood.”
Country Director Lola Castro of the World Food Programme said food fortification was the only solution to micronutrient malnutrition.
The National Fortification Alliance of Pakistan constituted in 2003 has many projects to its credit in overcoming micronutrient malnutrition.
Provinces were asked to send recommendations to the NHS within seven days for formulating a national action plan on food fortification.
Indicators reveal that 40pc of pre-school children and every second pregnant woman in the country are anaemic.
Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2015