In some of Quetta's suburbs, 40 to 65 per cent of children aged between six months and five years are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This was revealed by a nutrition officer from Unicef, Dr Faisal, while talking to DawnNewsTV on Sunday.
"The worst areas are Quetta's Panjpai tehsil and Kahan in terms of undernourishment," he said.
Unicef and Balochistan government's health department conducted a joint screening in Quetta, Pishin and Killa Abdullah districts of the province. Over 2,500 teams were formed to screen children from December 5 to 8, according to Dr Sher Ahmed Satakzai, the provincial coordinator for Balochistan's lady health workers programme.
World Health Organisation principles dictate that an emergency be declared when the number of malnourished children reaches 15pc, Dr Faisal said.
Editorial: Malnutrition reality
In view of severe drought-like conditions, the Balochistan government has already declared an emergency in 14 districts of the province. The government has decided to conduct a screening of children in drought-hit districts as well including Chaghi, Noshki, Washuk and Kharan, Dr Satakzai said, adding that lady health workers would be tasked with carrying out the job.
Medical experts believe poverty, a lack of clean water and inappropriate food are the primary underlying reasons behind acute malnutrition.
Over 30,000 children below the age of five years have been found severely malnourished across the province during a separate screening process conducted by a nutrition cell over the course of the last two years.
Ghulam Mustafa, the deputy manager of the nutrition cell said a screening of over 400,000 children and 200,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers was conducted in the province.
"Over 100,000 mothers were found anaemic," he said.