Combating stunting


In a major move that must be appreciated, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) has agreed to launch the Tackling Malnutrition Induced Stunting in Pakistan (TMISP) initiative with a cost of Rs350 billion for a period of five years. It was also agreed that half the money, about Rs175 billion, would be provided by the federal government while provinces would have to come up with the rest of it. It is a very pleasant surprise indeed to see a sitting Pakistani government not just accept that a problem like stunting exists, and that too to a very large degree, but also decided to back its words by action and policy. Prime Minister Imran Khan has really been the only politician talking about this particular problem, and the deep-rooted harm it can cause to individuals, families and societies, since well before he won the 2018 election. And he’s shocked a fair number of his critics by not removing it from his priority list after coming to power.
Malnutrition and stunting set people back right from their infancy. They are unable to grow like normal children, both physically and mentally, and hence get pushed back right at the beginning. They do not do as well at school as other, normal children, and therefore are unable to start their professional lives on an even footing with the rest. When the problem is as widespread as it is in Pakistan, where bout 65-75 percent of newborn children suffer from it, it can harm the entire country’s growth. That is why the government’s program is designed to target suffering children as well as expecting mothers with nutrition interventions. Experience in other parts of the world has already shown that such small steps can make a big difference for entire countries and the people that live in them.
Hopefully there will be no stumbling blocks on this road and everybody in the federal and provincial governments will put their many differences aside and work together for the sake of our children and our future. Pakistan is a relatively young country since a vast majority of us are between ages 25 and 40, which makes it all the more urgent to safeguard the children of today since they are the nation’s future. An unhealthy work force can at best produce a struggling country. The government should set realistic timelines and introduce an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism to ensure that everything remains on track.