KARACHI -  Political parties in the country could be witnessed aligning their manifestos for the national polls 2018 on the basis of common goals encompassing public health, education, environment and economy.

Politicians, including a sizable number of parliamentarians, representing different political parties of the country, in a pre-election dialogue on nutrition, acknowledged that the issue needed to be necessarily and urgently addressed for the sake of nation’s future.

The dialogue was organised by Health, Education and Literacy Programme (HELP) and the White Ribbon Alliance - Healthy Mothers Healthy World, here on Sunday.

Taking into stock the fact that country happens to have one of the highest incidences of low birth weights among new-borns followed by high rates of chronic and acute malnutrition among sizable number of children, they committed to focus on investment in the nutrition of mothers and their babies.

The statistics shared on the occasion revealed the country to be exposed to 55 per 1000 neonatal mortality rate followed by 25% low birth weight; 45% stunting (chronic malnutrition) in children below five years and 15% wasting (acute nutrition) in children below five years.

Four in 10 pregnant women (nearly 40% or 32.4 million) across the country were cited to anaemic; nearly half of which is due to iron deficiency.

Referring to the party policy of their respective affiliations towards the nutritional rights of infants/children and women across the country, politicians attending the program admitted that intensity of the situation was not duly realised hence meaningful interventions were still warranted.

A positive development, one of the politician, said was involvement of technocrats in the policy-making process of the political parties with special reference to health, education, environment and  economy.

It was unanimously agreed that multi-sectoral approach was needed to help achieve the goals of improved nutritional status of infants who otherwise were already registered to be faced with compromised physical as well as intellectual capacities.

Participants representing Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Pakistan Muslim League (Functional), Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Sirzameen Party (PSP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan, were unanimous that situation was not simply due to poverty but also due to lack of adequate knowledge about right choice of food and efficient application of available resources.

It was regretted that many of the laws particularly beneficial for babies and their mothers ultimately for the nation is general could not be efficiently implemented.

Revitalisation of provincial breastfeeding laws with necessary changes were particularly mentioned along with establishment of infant feeding boards with regular and proactive interaction.

Dr. Ammara Shakeel, Program Manager of HELP, drew attention towards enforcement of food fortification laws, rules of business and implementation at provincial level.

She also urged political parties to be cognisant of measures required to be taken for anaemia reduction that may help drive progress against other global nutrition targets like stunting, breastfeeding, wasting, low birth weight and hampered childhood.

Politicians recommended close collaboration between political parties and bodies comprising qualified professionals to take head-on major challenges which otherwise may soon emerge as a serious threat for the quality survival of the nation with severe implications for the country itself.

Prof. Dr. Dur e Sameen Akram, Chairperson HELP, in her presentation highlighting importance of guaranteed nutrition of women and children across the country said these were also closely associated with sustainable development goals.

“We are in dire need to efficiently end poverty as well as gender inequality contributory to food insecurity, negative calorie balance in most of the households as well as to high infant and maternal mortality rates,” elaborated the seasoned pediatrician.

The senior professional reiterated that nutrition was essential for attaining all the sustainable development goals (SDGS) as good nutrition makes for good health, it supports productive lives, drives up IQ levels, increases earning capacity besides supporting women development.

Dr. Syed Khawar Mehdi, accompanying Raza Haroon, General Secretary of PSP made a detailed presentation and drew attention towards alarming pool of stunted children along with phenomenal increase in diabetes among the local population. This he said has been compounded by disturbingly high antibiotic consumption in the country from 800 million defined daily doses (DDD) to 1.3 billion DDD between 2000 and 2015.

The senior medical researcher and physician said political parties need to reflect on the real and pressing needs that exist on the ground and if elected should prioritise a detailed plan for fast-track recovery of abysmal healthcare indicators.

Other participants of the moot included Khursheed Junejo (PPP), Dr. Mohan Monjian (PSP), Nusrat Sehar Abbasi (PML-F), Nusrat Thebo (PML-N), Amir Haider Shirazi (PML-N), Dr. Seema Zia (PTI), Dr. Pervez Ahmed (PTI), Dr. Rafiq Mambut (PML-F), Advocate Mahfooz Yar Khan (MQM - Pakistan) and several others.