ISLAMABAD – The United Nations World Food programme (WFP) has extended its agreement with the Micronutrient Initiative (MI), an NGO dedicated to eliminating vitamin and mineral deficiencies, in order to continue its food fortification programme and to advocate for the need to address micronutrient-related malnutrition among the people of Pakistan.
The latest National Nutrition Survey (2011) paints a clear picture of the challenges involved, breaking down the prevalence of micronutrient deficiency among pregnant and nursing women as follows: anemia (52.1 percent), iron deficiency anaemia (37 percent), vitamin A deficiency (46 percent), zinc deficiency (47.6 percent) and vitamin D deficiency (68.9 percent).
Among children under five years of age, the rates were as follows : anaemia (61.9 percent), iron deficiency (43.8 percent), vitamin A deficiency (54 percent), zinc deficiency (39.2 percent) and vitamin D deficiency (40 percent).
“WFP’s partnership with MI, in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan and the food industry, will sustain and intensify ongoing efforts for food fortification in Pakistan, aiming to holistically target every aspect of the operation from the policy level to the supply chains and via demand creation,” said Peter Scott-Bowden, Deputy Country Director of WFP Pakistan.
“We are commited to working together so that we can adequately provide fortified food and nutrient supplements to those at risk of micronutrient deficiencies. This will boost physical and mental growth among children, and increase labor productivity among adults, enabling them to reach their full human potential,” he added.
The National Nutrition Survey (NNS) identified the salt iodization programme as the only successful nutrition intervention nationwide, mainly due to strong government ownership of the programme and the active participation of WFP, MI and other partners such as UNICEF and GAIN.
In comparison with the findings of the previous NNS in 2001, it found that biochemical iodine deficiency declined from 57 percent to 18 percent among mothers and from 40 percent to 12 percent among school-aged children. Moreover, maternal goiter declined from 21 percent in 2001 to just 3 percent in 2011 mainly due to households’ increased use of iodised salt from 17 percent in 2001 to 69 percent in 2011.
“Stronger collaboration and joint efforts with national and provincial governments under the Scale-Up for Nutrition umbrella and partnership with the industry will certainly enhance the nutrition security of Pakistan’s population” said Dr. Tausif Janjua, Country Director of MI in Pakistan.
This collaboration also aims to strenghten public and private sector capacities at national, provincial and district levels to locally produce fortified food, provide technical assistance and advocate for national food and nutrition policies that address micronutrient deficiencies.
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