ISLAMABAD-President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday called for elaborate steps for child care in terms of their nutrition so that they can be saved from stunting and malnutrition.

Addressing National Nutrition Conference here, the president said malnutrition is present in every class because variety of eating is very narrow.

He appreciated Prime Minister Imran Khan for taking the issue of stunting seriously.

He said establishment of Pakistan National Nutrition Coordination Council shows the government’s commitment to address the issue of malnutrition.

He said stunting is a big issue in Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan, in this regard, also gave awareness to the nation in his speech.

The president emphasised the need for adopting the natural ways of fulfilling our nutritional needs for healthy growth of our society and added that defining the timelines regarding nutrition and ensuring their implementation is of vital importance to deal with the issues of malnutrition.

Terming malnutrition statistics alarming, Dr. Arif Alvi said 29 percent children under the age of five years are underweight and 54 percent are anaemic.

He said 29 percent children up to age five, were underweight which showed several underlying problems, besides the rest of 10 percent overweight children in the country.

He said 50 per cent, having deficiency of Vitamin A and 63 per cent lacking Vitamin D despite immense sunlight in the country, showed the need for change in lifestyles towards good health.

The president said that the main reason why Pakistan was facing this alarming health situation, was in fact ‘unlearning of natural lessons’ such as breastfeeding and choose the right kind of food.

He mentioned that preferring infant milk formula over breastfeeding was a big reason of malnutrition and asked the Health Ministry to keep a check on its marketing as a step towards reversing the loss of future generations.

The president said breastfeeding, also advised by the Holy Quran, was also a natural way for child birth, spacing as mother’s health was clearly linked with malnutrition and neo-natal mortality.

Dr Alvi said food fortification of wheat and edible oil could help overcome malnutrition as the successful controlling of goiter was done by the government, by adding iodine to salt.

He stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to address the issue of malnutrition and also through raising awareness among the people.

He also termed narrow variety of food another reason of malnutrition present in all classes.

He said recognition of health issues was the basic to be owned by government and parliamentarians with entire nation as the shareholder for its resolution.

President Alvi said learning from experiences of experts in the past and also previous governments, was necessary to avoid wastage of resources and choose the next line of action by setting definite time-frame for implementation.

He said the responsibility of media was absolutely important in encouraging the nation to fight challenges, rather than creating despondency among them.

He said instead of only focusing on news happenings and political debates, the media needed to focus on social issues as well and allocate a separate slot for it.

He urged upon the playwrights to create awareness on health issues through their characters and contribute to nation-building through positive ideas.

Dr Alvi said Pakistan was on a tipping point as if the nation worked with determination; nothing could stop it from becoming a healthy and wealthy country.

Speaking on the occasion, Canadian High Commissioner Wendy Gilmour said we believe that addressing nutritional needs is part of our core development efforts.

She said healthy children and women will ensure economic and human development.

The High Commissioner underscored the need for multi-sectoral approach to address the challenge of malnutrition. She said gender empowerment is the key to address the issue of malnutrition.