Pakistan has an alarmingly high level of malnutrition; 24 percent of the population is undernourished. The most recent estimates by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) state that 37.5 million people in Pakistan are not receiving proper nourishment. The issue is complex and widespread, with deficiencies ranging from protein to iodine, along with other health problems due to insufficient intake of these essential nutrients. But, what are the implications of these nutrient deficiencies for economic growth and development? Using household level estimates, the graph below shows that the macroeconomic costs are considerable in terms of year-in, year-out gross domestic product (GDP) foregone. For example, just three types of malnutrition are responsible for 3-4 percent of GDP loss in Pakistan in any given year, according to the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) fifth report on the world nutrition situation.
Malnutrition can often be very difficult to recognise, particularly in patients who are overweight or obese to start with. Malnutrition can happen very gradually, which can make it very difficult to spot in the early stages. Some of the symptoms and signs to watch out for include:
PPAF are interested to work with corporate sector partners line NFL on the issues of malnutrition for developing sustainable programs for the poor communities.
Editor’s Note: In the last few days, we have featured the in South Sudan. One little baby boy in particular, 1-year-old Jal, whose tiny body was racked with pain. Pain not only from malnutrition and its complications, but also from a particularly vicious and virulent form of tuberculosis.
Its encouraging to note that NFL is working on fighting against severe malnutrition in Pakistan. I would offer NFL to work with PPAF (more information can be obtained from the website ), who have launched pilot ‘School Mikl Program” at Rahim Yar Khan as a first step towards treatment of malnutrition in pakistan. The information on the program can be obtained from:
Malnutrition in Pakistan is usually associated with poverty and the main causative factors include low consumption of food and foods with low nutritional value. The most common and significant nutrient deficiencies are given below:
The most common symptom of malnutrition is unintentional weight loss and weakened immune system The early stages of development are the most crucial aspect in a child’s growth.
The malnutrition issue in Pakistan is a major CSR opportunity for food companies since the possible solution lies in widespread availability of essential nutrients in low cost food products. Food companies can utilize their existing resource and development capabilities to develop low-to-moderate-cost nutritional foods. Using a bit of ingenuity, this can be achieved with low additional costs to the company and a long-term product investment with guaranteed gains.
Jal Puok has complications of severe acute malnutrition, including Tuberculosis and severy swollen glands in the neck. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF
Many factors account for the tendency of the media to emphasize episodic famines rather than chronic malnutrition, including, for example, their tendency to emphasize sudden-onset events over continuing phenomena. However, the major factor undoubtedly is that democracies are not as democratic as we sometimes assume. Sen has come to acknowledge that there is chronic malnutrition in democracies, but it seems he does not associate that with any possible defects in the qualities of their democracy.
Societies can bedemocratic but at the same time highly unequal. Democratic governmentsare responsive to their people, but they are most responsive to themost powerful of them. These are the constituencies that keep theirleaders in power. This pattern is clearly visible in major democraciessuch as the United States and India. Thus, while Sen is correct inobserving that acute famines are virtually nonexistent in democracies,he overlooks the fact that they continue to have extensive chronicmalnutrition among their poor.
Democratic statesmay tend to be more equitable in the sense of having less extremedivisions between top and bottom, but all states have substantialinequalities in fact. Drèze and Sen speak of "the importance of publicaccountability in making it hard for a government to allow a famine todevelop". The unfortunate fact is that in all societies, includingdemocracies, governments tend to be more "accountable"--moreresponsive--to those who are more powerful. Those who are politicallyweak tend to be ignored, except when those who are relatively powerfulspeak out in their behalf.
Democracies such as the United States and India do not have famines, but they do have widespread chronic undernutrition. We can explain this, and still save Sen’s concept, by acknowledging that these democracies-as-lived are imperfect. They are not fully egalitarian, but are more responsive to those of their people who are richer and more powerful. There is government accountability to the people, but not uniformly. Democracies have the same flaw as other political systems: they tend to be more responsive to those who are powerful than to those who are needy. We see this in their economic systems, their social systems, their educational systems—indeed, in every quarter of society. Even programs designed for the poor tend to favor the more capable among the poor. This pattern of democracy-as-lived may be described as elite democracy, to distinguish it from truly egalitarian ideal democracy.
Thus we come toan explanation for chronic malnutrition. We can understand thepersistent and widespread chronic malnutrition in the world, withincountries and internationally, as a concrete manifestation of thepersistent and widespread disparities in power in the world. Weakerpeople have weaker entitlements, and thus will always have adisproportionately small share of the earth’s abundant produce. Someindividuals will enjoy meals costing hundreds of dollars, and thuscommand the labor of many others, and at the same time otherindividuals will squat before nearly empty rice bowls.
Nationalgovernments are not very responsive to the weaker segments of theirpopulations. In much the same way, the international community isskewed against the weaker nations of the world. Explicitly stated humanrights, affirmed in the law, accompanied by distinct mechanisms ofimplementation and of accountability, contribute to counterbalancingthis bias in social systems. Thus, a well-developed human rights systemis not an add-on luxury; it is an integral part of any social systemthat aspires to be truly egalitarian. It is essential to goodgovernance.
On related issues, also by George Kent, see (14 kb in RTF).
Severe acute malnutrition is defined by the World Health Organization as a very low weight for height, by visible severe wasting, or by the presence of nutritional oedema — a build-up of fluid in the body that causes tissue to become swollen.
Nyakandai, 1, suffers from severe acute malnutrition in Juba, South Sudan. Such cases have increased due to the fighting in the country. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF