ISLAMABAD    -   Four out of 10 children under the age of five years are stunted according to the new National Nutrition Survey (NNS), a survey released by the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) said on Tuesday.

The survey released in an event held here showed a 4 per cent decrease since the last survey conducted in 2011, and that nearly two out of every 10 children under five also suffer from wasting.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on NHS Dr. Faisal Sultan said on the occasion that malnutrition in Pakistan remains high at the forefront of government’s agenda.

He said that the findings of the nutrition survey are very concerning for the government. Women and children in the country are far below the acceptable levels of nutrition and this alarming situation requires urgent attention.

For actionable plans and progress towards SDGs, food security, and ending malnutrition, we have to develop district-specific and region-specific strategies. With a data set as comprehensive as NNS 2018, we are on the right track. Individuals and institutions partnerships on a micro and macro level will bear the fruits we have been striving for since decades, he added.

Dr. Baseer Achakzai, Director Nutrition Programme, MNHSRC highlighting the findings of survey said that the NNS assesses the nutrition status of 115,500 households across Pakistan, the largest ever nutrition survey conducted in the country.

Nearly 13 per cent of children between the ages of two and five years suffer from some form of functional disability. The survey points out that one in every eight adolescent girls and one in every five adolescent boys are underweight. Over half of the adolescent girls in Pakistan are anaemic.

Women of reproductive age in Pakistan also bear a triple burden of malnutrition. 14 per cent are undernourished, which reflects an improvement compared to 18 per cent in 2011. While overweight and obesity has increased from 28% in 2011 to 38% in 2018. He further added that National Nutrition Survey is funded by the United Kingdom government with technical support from UNICEF, which is carried by Agha Khan University and led by MNHSRC.

The Deputy Director Development British High Commission, Jim Carpy said: United Kingdom is proud to support this very important initiative to assess the nutritional needs in Pakistan. The results of this survey will help us in tackling the issue of malnutrition by targeting those most affected, including children under five, adolescent girls and pregnant women. He highlighted that United Kingdom will continue to work closely with Pakistan to improve maternal and child health, end preventable deaths and ensuring adequate nutrition for all.

On the occasion, Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan said that the National Nutrition Survey 2018 is a wake-up call to a clear and present emergency. The country confronts a triple burden of malnutrition affecting young children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women. A clear indication that nutrition in Pakistan requires high level attention and adequate funding to reduce mortality due to malnutrition and to ensure that every child reaches her/his full development potential in life. Strengthening the health system to deliver preventative and curative nutrition services at scale is imperative. UNICEF will continue to work with the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to end all forms of malnutrition in the country, she added.

Prof Zulfiqar Ali Bhutta, Founding Director of Centre of Excellence in Women & Child Health, Agha Khan University said on the occasion that Pakistan faces massive challenges in maternal and child nutrition is no longer news.