Inter-Provincial Meeting agrees on food fortification to address malnutrition

May 05, 2015

Islamabad, the 5th May, 2015:-       In a high level inter-provincial meeting chaired by Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar and attended by Secretary Planning Hasan Nawaz Tarar and Secretaries Health of all provinces, it was agreed to fight malnutrition in the country.

Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar addressing the meeting said we must continue to scale up the fortification initiatives in the country to protect our future generation from deficiencies of the important vitamins and minerals.             

She said that this meeting is mile stone towards planning and making policy guidelines towards Food Fortification in the country.

She said nutrition remains a key element in ensuring health and wellbeing of the population. Recent evidences suggest that Pakistan has some of the worst development indicators in the world. Results from the latest National Nutrition Survey (NNS, 2011) show an alarming situation related to nutrition.

Under-nutrition including micronutrient malnutrition, is one of the main causes of impaired physical and mental development among infants and young children. Those who survive have less learning capacity that reduces their productivity at adulthood.

Secretary Planning, Development & reforms Hassan Nawaz Tarar in his remarks said that reconstitution of Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, the National Fortification Alliance has also been reconstituted under the chair of the Minister for National Health Services, which is encouraging. The Alliance includes representation from all the federal line ministries, the provincial line departments, development sector & UN agencies, academia & research institutions, Civil Society and industry. The role of the national Fortification Alliance is to suggest and review various remedies of micronutrient deficiencies in Pakistan and a establish liaison with all stakeholders to address micronutrient deficiencies.

Dr Baseer Khan Achakzai, shared the current situation saying deterioration has been seen in already poor nutrition indicators during the last decade. Under-nutrition is a significant problem with 43.7% of children under five stunted, 15.1% wasted and 31.5% underweight. Similar situation prevails among women of reproductive age with 13.6% being underweight, and 2.5% severely thin.

Speaking on the occasion the World Food Program Country Director, Lola Castro said focusing on micronutrient malnutrition, the most cost effective, practical and simple solution is food fortification. National Fortification Alliance of Pakistan constituted in 2003 has quite a few programs and projects to its credit which had positive impact on micronutrient malnutrition in the country. One of these was universal salt iodization program which yielded excellent results, thanks to all partners for coordination & cooperation with a strong government commitment, also a great support from the industry and effective monitoring and supervision by the regulatory bodies.

The meeting agreed that provinces will send their recommendations to Ministry of National Health Services within seven days for formulation of a National Action Plan on Food fortification.