Comprehensive awareness


Like other South Asian countries, malnutrition among children and grown-ups is a major concern in Pakistan. As anaemia, which results from malnutrition, is affecting the health of mothers, married women and adolescent girls, it is one of the major driving forces, which gives rise to maternal and infant mortality rate as well as underweight births in the country. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines malnutrition as the inability to achieve nutrition because of the scarcity of available food. Generally, anaemia is marked by pallid complexion and fatigue among individuals. The most common form of anaemia occurs from iron deficiency.
Health experts explain anaemia as a poor cognitive and motor development in children, and also influences work capacity among adults. Among pregnant women, iron deficiency is also associated with adverse reproductive outcomes such as preterm delivery, low-birth-weight infants, and decreased iron stores for the baby, which may lead to impaired development.
Failure to reduce anaemia may result in millions of women experiencing impaired health and quality of life, and may impair children’s development and learning. Anaemia is an indicator of both poor nutrition and poor health. Speakers in a recent event also claimed that 41.9 percent of women of reproductive age are identified as anemic in the country, drawing an alarming picture of the society.
This is a very alarming situation and highlighting these factors in seminars and other government run programs would not suffice to turn around the situation.
Although speakers in the event elaborated specific and targeted measures taken by the government, so far, the country is still far away to see some concrete remedial steps. Owing to rapid body growth and depletion of iron stores, iron requirements during the first two years of life are higher than in any other period. This depletion and consequent iron deficiency anaemia can result in growth retardation, impaired cognition and reduced physical activity and is associated with impaired brain and cognitive functions. It has even contributed to the high national infant mortality rate.
Dr Saeed-ur-Rehman, coordinator Lady Health Workers Program in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while sharing findings of a recent research claims that anaemia is a public health challenge in South and Southeast Asia, adding that 41.9 percent of women of reproductive age are identified as anemic and malnourished.
While terming the diet and nutrition as fundamental in maintaining the health of populations, especially expectant women, he added that prevalence is even higher among pregnant women living in Pakistan, 51 percent of whom are anemic and 18.2 percent are iron deficient.
Dr Shabina Raza, country director, Nutrition International, a non-profit organization, highlighted the research findings on iron and folic acid and said that the study found that the majority of women and their family members have anaemia.
Pakistan will need to launch a joint program by involving all relevant agencies and government line departments to eradicate iron deficiency and malnutrition among women and children in the country.
A comprehensive mass backed awareness program is need of the hour to help overcome the emerging challenges of malnutrition for the millions of poor masses.