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"Economic Consequences of Under Nutrition"

Dated : 24 February 2017

Federal Minister Mr. Ahsan Iqbal addressed the meeting following up on the Report of Economic Consequences of Under Nutrition in Pakistan.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Mr. Ahsan Iqbal said that a healthy nation is pivotal to economic and social development, which is one of the major pillars in the Pakistan Vision 2025.

Our government is committed to realizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a collaborative approach b/w public and private sectors. Minister Iqbal stated that Public-Private partnership results in synergy of resources directed towards a better Pakistan. Minister expressed these views while talking to the representatives of the organizations working on food and nutrition at P-Block, Pakistan Secretariat.

“Historically, Pakistan has one of the worst nutrition rates in the light of which Government of Pakistan has initiated many national level programmes to counter malnutrition in Pakistan,” Minister Iqbal said.

Minister maintained that under nutrition is both a cause and a consequence of poverty. Poverty and undernutrition have a created a vicious cycle leading to child morbidity and mortality, retarded physical and cognitive growth, diminished learning capacity and school performance, and ultimately lower adult productivity and earnings.

Mr. Ahsan Iqbal noted that under nutrition is a wide spread issue in Pakistan. Fourteen indicators of Undernutrition documented in the most recent National surveys suggest ~100 individual million cases affecting more than half of adult women and two thirds of children. Each indicator in the report suggests a risk towards: survival, health issues, child development, school performance and adult earnings.

These fourteen indicators of Undernutrition include Low body mass index (BMI), Short stature, Anemia, Birth defects(Folic Acid), non-exclusive breastfeeding, non-continued breastfeeding, Underweight, weight for height, stunting (HAZ), Vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency disorder (IDD), Zinc deficiency, and Vitamin D deficiency.

Minister said that this study comprehensively covers determinants of undernutrition. Also, it sheds light on the globally established coefficients of risk associated to undernutrition levels. Study undertakes national demographic, health, economic and labor statistics to project depressed National Economic Activity due to current prevalence of Undernutrition in Pakistan, it amounts upto $6.8 billion annually, 2.5% of national GDP.

This study endeavors to measure Undernutrition losses through four pathways which includes Child Mortality attributed to undernutrition, Depressed Future Productivity of Children, Depressed Current Productivity, Excess Healthcare Expenditures.

Minister said that undernutrition coincides with many health and economic deprivations affecting child growth and development. It is not possible to Isolate the “nutrition factor” or the “child development factor” because then it overlooks countless interactions of nutrition, nature and nurture.

GOP has put immense focous on the issue of undernutrition in pregnant women contributes to low birth weight deliveries and Undernutrition in children contributes to impaired immunity and infection.

Minister mentioned that the first pillar of vision 2025 states “the first priority is to invest in every citizen to improve his/her choices and quality of life. This requires capitalizing upon and strengthening existing social capital, improving the human skill base of the population, and providing access to opportunities for advancement. It involves a rapid scaling up of investments in education, health and social development.”

The current widespread issue of malnutrition in Pakistan poses a significant challenge to human and economic development effort. This report intends to demonstrate the enormous economic losses from malnutrition in Pakistan and the need to ensure long-term investment, even beyond the current Vision 2025 in order to uplift Pakistan’s economic potential.

“More analyses are needed to identify the most promising policy options bringing together a series of multisectoral cost-effective interventions for both short and long term results” he concluded