Published On: Wed, Feb 14th, 2018

Malnutrition in Sindh

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The dismal situation of nutrition-specific indicators in Sindh is a matter of real concern. Malnutrition related deaths are extremely high in Thar because of insufficient healthcare facilities. The provincial government will have to deal with all of these issues to fix the province’s nutrition-related problems, while also preparing for the effects of climate change.

In February 2017, children’s rights advocacy group Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) revealed that 57 percent of the children in Sindh under the age of five are stunted. Only 52.5 percent of Sindhi women have a normal body mass index (BMI) and 23.7 percent are underweight. In interior Sindh, the incidence of anaemia among children under the age of five has been recorded at 73 percent, which is significantly higher than the national average.

Taking these statistics into account, the Sindh Taskforce on Nutrition was rightly told by the Chief Minister’s coordinator last week to treat the situation as an emergency. Currently, the province depends on an Accelerated Action Plan (AAP) to curb malnutrition.

The AAP aims to reduce developmental stunting from the current 48 percent to 30 percent by 2021, and to 15 percent by 2026. This will involve combined efforts by ministries of health, agriculture, education and nutrition. Now that the government has recognised the situation as that of an emergency, it would do well to recall that in October last year, it was reported that progress has been quite slow in several of Sindh government’s projects including the AAP. Primary stakeholders in the AAP such as small farmers have also complained that they have been excluded from policy making process.

As a matter of fact, there are many factors that contribute to the dismal situation of nutrition-specific indicators in Sindh. Most of the population of rural Sindh remains vulnerable to extreme weather events triggered more often than before due to climate change. Seasonal starvation is a regular occurrence. And while the province’s water table has been going down, the population remains dependent on water intensive crops.

Traditions in rural areas which demand that girls get married at a young age and conceive children every year also endanger both women and children’s health.

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