A report with stark realities regarding prevalent malnutrition and its consequences in the country is an eye-opener for the government. Reportedly, the consequences of malnutrition — including lost laborers, healthcare expenses and lower productivity — cost Pakistan US$7.6 billion, or 3 percent of GDP, every year.
The statement is a part of a new report launched by the Pakistan Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat at the Ministry of Planning Development & Reform, in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). There are stunning figures in the report. It has been reported that more than 177,000 children die every year in Pakistan before their fifth birthday because they or their mother are malnourished. The value of this lost future workforce is estimated at US$2.24 billion annually. Diseases like diarrhea and respiratory infection among children, stunting, anemia or iodine deficiencies as well as malnutrition are other sources that have burdened the country’s economy and causing billions of dollars’ loss annually.
In order to tackle the challenge, the concerned ministry has sought help from other government institutions and civil society. Undoubtedly, united efforts are needed to eradicate the menace of malnutrition and other menaces. At the government level, there is a need to educate the masses about these ills in society. New programmes at the federal level are needed to be launched for the awareness of the masses. Besides, the government needs to play its role in ameliorating the suffering of the masses by improving their living conditions. The rulers need to abandon their opulent, monarch-like lifestyle, and instead focus all their energies and resources on elevating the condition of the underprivileged and downtrodden people by providing them basic necessities of life.
Looking at the conditions in which the majority of Pakistanis exist, it is not an exaggeration to state that people in power do not seem to be interested to ameliorate the suffering of a common Pakistani whose quotidian existence consists of numerous ordeals to keep his body and soul together. There are merely discussions and debates about the problems of the poor but practically not much is done to resolve these issues. Since the independence of Pakistan, not a great deal has changed, and living conditions for a common citizen have gone from bad to worse during all these years. Successive governments have failed to ensure the provision of even the basic civic amenities to the poor: food, shelter, education, healthcare, clean water, electricity, gas. Low-income families live in conditions unfit for animals, and the unavailability of good schooling and health facilities adds to the bleak picture. The social fabric of society needs an overall improvement. Instead of indulging in mere discussions, something concrete needs to be done now.