Islamabad - Pakistan is in a state of nutrition emergency and most of the nutrition indicators of the country are worse than sub-Saharan Africa. In spite of the fact that breast feeding culture was quite dominant in Pakistan, still early and exclusive breast feeding for first 6 months is far behind than other countries of the South Asia, which was quite alarming.

Dr Baseer Khan Achakzai, Director Nutrition Programme, National Institute of Health, Ministry of National Health Services, highlighted the situation at an advocacy seminar on nutrition held for parliamentarians and civil society on Tuesday as a part of celebration of Global Breast Feeding Week 2015. This week is celebrated once a year to highlight the importance of breastfeeding for health of neonates and infants. The theme for this year World Breast Feeding Week is ‘Breastfeeding and Work –Let’s Make it Work’. The seminar was organised by the nutrition wing of ministry of national health services, regulations & coordination with support of UNICEF.

He pointed out that Protection of Breast Feeding and Child Nutrition ordinance was promulgated in 2002 and breast feeding rules were launched in 2009, but still little efforts had been made for enforcement of these laws and regulation at the national and provincial levels. All the provinces had prepared their nutrition PC1s and were at different stages of implementation, he informed. Balochistan was slightly behind in this respect and support from the legislature was required to speed up the process. He requested the members of parliament for necessary legislation regarding universal salt iodisation and wheat flour fortification to ensure that population gets necessary vitamin and minerals they need to survive and thrive.

Dr Baseer shared that stunting preventing project in 4 districts of Sindh is under way with the support of WFP & UNICEF, which has a proven success, appreciated by government of Sindh, while wheat flour fortification project with the support of DFID and MI is to be launched in the whole country later this year.

Dr Khawaja Masuood Ahmed, National Coordinator NFA, presented the situation of different nutrition indicators for Pakistan as per latest National Nutrition Survey 2011 and Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2013-14. He also emphasised that malnutrition could not be addressed by health sector alone as it was a multi-sectoral issue. Other sectors like water & sanitation, education, agriculture and social protection also had to play their role to target malnutrition in the country and SUN movement is Pakistan was playing an important role in bringing all these sectors under one platform along with National Fortification Alliance.

UNICEF Nutrition Chief, Melanie Galvin also highlighted the importance of Breast Feeding Week celebrated globally from 1-7 August 2015.

He narrated some of the field experiences from Pakistan where bottle feeding was noticed in the poorest and remotest of the areas. She also requested the parliamentarians to enact necessary regulations and also lay down necessary mechanism for enforcement of the legislations and rules in place.

The parliamentarians expressed keen interest in the nutrition issues and raised many questions for clarification. They ensured the nutrition partners for all the necessary support in enactment and enforcement of legislation for elimination of malnutrition from the country.