FAISALABAD - Experts at a seminar on Thursday expressed their concern over stunted growth in children due to a decrease in breastfeeding trend, saying that low ratio of motherfed infants was causing physical and mental disability and termed it one of primary causes of malnutrition in the country.

They stated these remarks at a seminar on nutrition and breastfeeding held in connection with World Breastfeeding Week.

It was organised by Faculty of Food, Nutrition and Home Sciences, UAF in collaboration with United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Integrated Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Health and Nutrition, Government of Punjab at New Senate Hall.

Addressing on the occasion, UAF Vice Chancellor Dr Zafar Iqbal Randhawa said that breastfeeding was the best way to provide infants with the nutrients they needed for healthy growth.

He said that breastfeeding started within one hour after birth, and after six months nutritious complementary foods should be added to it up to two years.

He said that Quran also gave guidelines to breastfeed children for two years. He lauded the steps and initiatives of the government to address the issue of stunted growth in infants.

He said that 44 percent of the children below five years of age were stunted in the country which was affecting the development of the brain.

He added that the future of the country was at stake with so many stunted children. He said that the government was taking all possible steps to address the issue of stunted growth in the country.

Faculty Dean Dr Masood Sadiq Butt said that low ratio of breastfeeding caused diseases including diarrhoea and other childhood illnesses.

He said that malnutrition was causing the loss of three percent to the Gross Domestic Product which was the biggest issue than energy crisis.

He added that some people consider formula milk as healthy as mothers. “We have to root out such misconception from the society.”

He said that UAF was the leading university to launch Human Nutrition and Dietetics degree in the country.

“The program is replicated in 15 universities of the country.”

UNICEF Nutrition Expert Dr Shafiq Rehman said that breastfeeding was perquisite not only for maintaining physical health of infant but also for the mental ability.

He said that the breastfeeding also saved the mothers from breast cancer. He said that stunting rate among children under the age of five years was 44 percent whereas the wasting percentage had increased up to 15 percent.

DG NIFSAT Dr Tahir Zahoor stressed upon the need to create awareness about the compliance to breastfeeding for two years that could significantly reduce stunting in the country.

He said that newborn must be breastfed within 30 minutes after birth. She said that breastfeeding was essential not only for physical health of infant but also for mental ability.

UNICEF Nutrition Officer Uzma Khurrum said that 33 percent of the children were stunted in Punjab.

She said that there was a need to put a special focus on the infants for the 1,000 days right from the pregnancy. She said that there was a massive micronutrient deficiencies were found in women.

She said that some 51 percent of pregnant women were anaemic, 46 percent suffered from vitamin A deficiency, 47.6 percent from zinc deficiency, and 68.9 percent from vitamin D deficiency. Dr Kamran and other notables also spoke on the occasion.