Islamabad - The deficiency of micronutrient reduced about 26 per cent among anaemic children after they were given multi-micronutrient sachets for six months that costs only Rs 300.

The end result of a survey on “Multiple Micronutrient Nutrient Powder” was shared by Aga Khan University Hospital at a seminar jointly held by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation & Coordination and the Micronutrient Initiative.

Shujat Zaidi from Aga Khan University and National Rural Support Program shared the Survey report. Dr Tausif Akhter, Country Director of MI said that the dissemination of this evaluation study has been carried out to assess the Micronutrient Powder (MNP) project in non-LHW covered areas through NRSP. He said that these small sachets containing necessary vitamin and minerals are used to fortify the food for six to 24 month children, the crucial period of 1000 days of window of opportunity. The pilot project for MNP was carried out during 2007-08 through LHWs and it was very successful and now this was another pilot to test the project’s effectiveness in non-LHW covered areas, he added.

According to National Nutrition Survey 2011, 51 per cent children under the age of five years are deficient of micronutrients-iron, iodine, zinc, vitamins etc.

Ayub Sheikh, Secretary MoNHSRC, said it was surprising to learn that a two months course of the fortification with MNPs costs around 100 rupees or 300 rupees for the complete coverage of one child. This is very little amount that can save our children from possible micronutrient deficiencies and improve their physical and cognitive development. He said that ministry, through NFA and technical working group for IYCF will focus in the nutrition plan to address the malnutrition issues of mothers and children.

Ayub Sheikh said that micronutrient deficiency prevalence is a matter of great concerned beside over all malnutrition in children and women in Pakistan. He said that a lot has been said and expressed about the status of malnutrition in the country, since the launch of ‘National Nutrition Survey 2011’ less than two years ago. “Today when I hear this, I really feel bad, as if we could not do what we should have been. I strongly feel, as someone said, that it is time to just let go the talking and do some good work for the people of our country specially the women and children who suffer the most.”

He said that ministry of NHSRC realizes that joint efforts by all provinces are needed to address the micronutrient deficiencies in the country. He stressed upon the UN agencies, donors and development partners to come forward and support the nutrition program in the country with synergies in efforts to address the poor indicators of stunting, low birth weight, anaemia and IDD disorders.

The secretary said that the nutrition wing of the ministry is in final stage of development of a national nutrition plan with partnership of nutrition partners and would support implementation of nutrition interventions in ICT, AJ&K, FATA and GB, and also provide technical and policy guidelines to all provinces.

Dr Baseer Achakzai, Director Nutrition of Ministry said that there are many effective interventions that can be implemented with little cost but strong coordination, collaboration and effective monitoring. He said that the successful NFA meeting has leaded us to make a national nutrition action plan.

He said that the NFA meeting was very fruitful and not only our government colleagues expressed their strong commitment and ownership for food fortification in the country, but also the development partners expressed their complete support for this Alliance.

Dr Achakzai said, “We should also focus our synergies and targets the extremely poor indicators of stunting, wasting and underweight by improving IYCF practices, promoting exclusive breast feeding and addressing the issues of food security by improving the access and availability of food for the underprivileged and marginalized communities. Of course health sector cannot do it alone and other sectors like education, WASH, agriculture, social protection, etc have to put in their share.”