Only a minority of children are growing up healthily in Pakistan, which is estimated to have more than half the children under the age of five to be stunted or wasted, says the Global Nutrition Report 2015 released earlier yesterday.
The report has come at a time when the United Nations member states plan to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) later this month.
According to the nutrition report, only Kenya is on course for all five World Health Assembly targets on nutrition while Colombia, Ghana, Vanuatu and Vietnam — are on course for four targets. Pakistan is among 20 countries that have met only one target.
The report claimed that many countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Nigeria, had only a minority of children who were growing healthily.
It also presented a dismal picture of the global nutrition status and said that no country was on track to achieve the global nutrition targets set by the World Health Assembly. One in three people in the world is malnourished and the problem exists in every country on the planet — yet strategies or “high-impact interventions” available to resolve it were not being implemented due to lack of money, skills or political pressure.
The report highlighted the critical link between climate change and malnutrition and suggested that changing weather conditions were complicating global efforts to end malnutrition.
“Even small and seasonal fluctuations in climate can have big impacts on food availability and disease patterns, and these in turn dramatically affect children’s survival and development.”
“This means, for example, that babies born in India in November and December are taller on average at three years of age than those born in April through September. In a world where many are not eating enough and others are eating too much, food systems also need attention,” it said.
Childhood stunting and wasting, the report said, remained serious problems as more than 160 million children worldwide under five were too short for their age or stunted, while more than 50 million did not weigh enough for their height or were wasted.
Although countries are increasingly meeting goals for combating stunting and wasting, adult obesity — another form of malnutrition — is growing. The prevalence of obesity rose in every country between 2010 and 2014, and one in 12 adults worldwide now has Type-2 diabetes.
“The report underscores the need for implementing critical nutrition actions urgently in countries with the greatest need, and especially in Pakistan where we face the double burden of persisting maternal and childhood under-nutrition and growing obesity,” said Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta, one of the authors, and founding director of the Centre for Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University and co-director of the Centre for Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children.
The sustainable development goals, in his view, offer a unique opportunity for the government of Pakistan and political leadership to provide non-partisan support to move rapidly to develop a national action plan for nutrition.
At a time when SDGs will replace Millennium Development Goals, the report recommends that countries could meet SDGs second goal of ending hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030 through political commitment, redesigning existing food systems, engaging new partners particularly private sector, identifying data gaps, and strengthening accountability.
“Nutrition can be a driver of change or a barrier to progress. Action leaders of every country should be taking steps to end malnutrition in all forms,” said the report.