Sunday, 9 September 2012

Malnutrition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

 Speakers at a seminar in Peshawar have stressed the need for adopting a multi-sectoral approach to combating the rising incidence of malnutrition, particularly among children, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Country's north-western areas have been the main theatre of US-led high-tech aerial war on terror in Pakistan. It is said that acute malnutrition and lack of adequate healthcare has affected the physical and mental growth of children, and women's health, most of whom are already too malnourished. The province has historically hosted the highest concentrations of war refugees.

The exodus of Afghan refugees following the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and more recently the flight of IDPs following Pakistan security forces' operations in the tribal belt, in co-ordination with operations by the US-led coalition forces across the border in Afghanistan, have worsened the situation. The worst victims of the war on terror have been the women, children and old and infirm men, as in all war zones. The level of malnutrition and lack of adequate medical care in KP has probably been greater than in other provinces because of greater resource constraints there, as well as inadequacy of infrastructure. Topography has been another factor for paucity of infrastructure. Incidentally, human development indices relating to KP and Balochistan have been the lowest in the country.

Different working groups at the Peshawar workshop, headed by specialists in their respective fields, have been constituted under an integrated strategy to achieve better results. Recommendations have, as usual, been made. However, the danger is that the workshop may remain only a "paper" workshop, with no or inadequate follow-up on the ground. We hope the whole exercise will go beyond the realm of an "academic" discussion only. Maternal and child healthcare has traditionally been one of the most neglected sectors in Pakistan. Malnutrition in Pakistan, as elsewhere in the Third World, leaves long-term corrosive effects on the economy. The planning and development department of KP has done well to hold the workshop, but as we have said earlier it must lead to concrete action on the ground. 

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