LAHORE: A healthy human resource is the basic condition for increasing productivity. Pakistan is home to the highest number of stunted (low height for age) children after India and Nigeria. Pakistan’s economic future is tied to solving this problem.
More than 40 percent or 12 million Pakistani children under five are stunted and 17.7 percent or about 5.3 million are wasted (low weight for height) including 2, 5 million are estimated to be severely wasted, according to the ministry’s 2018 National Nutrition Survey. national health services (NHS).
Economic losses due to the high prevalence of stunting and wasting amount to $7.6 billion per year.
A study of the economic costs of childhood stunting by eClinicalMedicine finds that stunting reduction interventions yield gains of $2 to $81 per dollar invested each year, or 100 to 8,000% across all country.
Wasting is a life-threatening form of malnutrition, which makes children too thin and weak, and puts them at increased risk of death, poor growth, development and learning. The 2018 NHS shows that most mothers are malnourished and unable to feed their infants, causing their children to become malnourished again.
By providing nutrient-dense foods in the form of fortified milk or flavored milk, children can have a second chance to grow and develop.
Multiple forms of malnutrition lead to reduced schooling, cognitive impairment, loss of labor productivity, and higher healthcare costs that slow a nation’s economic growth.
The government should focus on school lunchtime milk snack programs that are being continued in other countries. Instead of providing unconditional subsidies, the state should work with milk processors to provide milk to at least all primary school children.
When affordability is not an issue, parents should be encouraged to send their children nutritious beverages like milk/flavored milk and yogurt that can provide vitamin B12 for healthy brain and nervous system development. and protein and calcium to provide necessary muscle and bone development. to school with them to get supplies.
School children have higher nutritional needs than adults to help support critical mental development and contribute to healthy growth. Children absorb information and develop their motor skills at a very high rate. not only do they develop social skills, but their creativity, muscle coordination, and other cognitive developments occur simultaneously.
At this young developing age, their nervous system develops alongside any related hand-eye coordination. Their bodies need vitamin B12 for healthy brain and nervous system development, while protein and calcium provide necessary muscle and bone development. All these nutrients can be brought to the child via milk or even flavored milk.
Government must partner with milk processing companies to provide milk fortified with nutrients like vitamin A and D and added calcium in public schools at preferential rates
Studies confirm that healthy snacks are the catalyst for better academic performance, while not taking advantage of them is known to affect them negatively.
Children who eat healthy snacks like fruit, milk and nuts tend to do better in school.
On the other hand, children who eat unhealthy processed foods do not do well in their studies. This study supports the claim that healthier eating habits and snacks improve children’s concentration and academic performance.
We need a multi-sectoral approach where the health, social welfare, agriculture and education sectors can pool resources and work together to provide healthy nutrition to growing children to reduce stunting and wasting.