Malnutrition in land of plenty
By: Mariam Ahmed
Indus valley, now comprising the mountains, planes and deserts of Pakistan, has traditionally been world’s bread basket. The bowl of the world famous Basmati rice is located between Ravi and Chenab. Official forecast put this year’s paddy production at nearly 10 million tonnes.
Yet, millions of people go to bed hungry in my country every day.
The drought in the Thar district, for example, has taken the lives of 96 children in two months and about 300 in a year, because of malnutrition. Around 40 million persons, or around one in five people, are undernourished in Pakistan. Hunger is a global issue: 805 million people do not have enough to eat.
The good news is that hunger is going down; the number of under-nourished people has gone down by 200 million people as compared to the figures twenty years ago.
Malnutrition is a lot more problematic than hunger alone, as it affects the people in many ways. Two billion people suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ or under-nutrition, i.e. vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
Under-nutrition is responsible for almost half of all child deaths, and a quarter of living children are stunted due to inadequate nutrition.
Obesity is also an off-shoot of malnutrition. Diets containing excessive fats, sugars and salts affect more than 500 million people world wide.
Obesity can lead to heart stroke, diabetes and cancer - ranking as the top causes of death in the world.
Importers of dates such as Germany, Denmark, India, Nepal, USA, UK, Afghanistan and Canada are re-exporting Pakistani dates after quality enhancement and preparation of by-products, at a price that is four to six times higher than their import price,” said Jawad.
Malnutrition, that is hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity together costs an estimated $2.8 to 3.5 trillion, or 4-5% of global GDP. That’s $400 to 500 per person. Now is the time to tackle malnutrition.
A gathering in Rome recently presented a unique opportunity to galvanize world attention on ‘more and better food for all: the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2)’ - jointly organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Over 170 countries made a number of concrete commitments and adopted a series of recommendations on policies and investments aimed at ensuring that all people have access to healthier and more sustainable diets.
This is an important starting point. But the real challenge is to hear these intentions resonate in regional and national actions throughout the world. The true success of the ICN2 in the glamorous setting of ancient Rome, will be measured in the remote villages of Pakistan.
Source: Pakistan Observer