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Political will is critical to create a national vision for the promotion of health and nutrition of mothers and children, says Saira Afzal

Islamabad, April 07, 2014 (PPI-OT): The Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Mrs. Saira Afzal Tarar said that political will is critical to create a national vision for the promotion of health and nutrition of mothers and children in Pakistan.

This Government has a resolute commitment to improve mother and child health in the country. We will continue to support the Provinces in up-scaling such programs and also work closely with our international partners. She said this while addressing the 8th Regional Meeting of South Asia Infant Feeding Research Network today in Islamabad.

The Minister said that countries of this region have similar challenges. Whether it is the Infant mortality rates, child nutrition or maternal mortality, the statistics do not represent a picture we can take pride in it. We need to work closely to share experiences and best practices that will help improve the access to health facilities for more people.

It is not the destiny of our children to die of causes that we can prevent. We must be p0repared for the challenge by making collective effort and devising policies and introducing programs that can help achieve the goals of child survival and reduction in maternal mortality.

The Minister further said that malnutrition among children under 5 years of age is considered as the most prevalent public health issue of the region. In Pakistan almost half of the under 5 population is malnourished whereas half of the world’s malnourished children reside in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

Pakistan’s last National Nutrition Survey has been an eye opener. It revealed that 43.7 percent of children who died during birth were stunted whereas about 31.5 percent children were underweight. Pakistan, unfortunately, as a developing country has the second highest infant and child mortality rate in South Asia. Food insecurity, improper infant and young child feeding practices also contribute heavily to this state of affairs.

Mother’s position in the society determines her ability to make decisions regarding feeding their infants. Mother’s education and empowerment therefore, should be a major component of any intervention related to the promotion of health and nutrition.

Unfortunately, prevalent socio cultural factors are major impediments. Gender inequity results in the neglect of the girl child and also leads to malnourished mothers giving birth to underweight children.

She said that improving the nutrition of women and children in Pakistan is not the exclusive domain of healthcare providers. Sectors involved in poverty alleviation have a role to play to deal with the issue of food insecure households.

Education sector has a major role in improving the current low levels of female literacy. Media has to play its role in bringing about behaviour change in the society especially targeting the cultural misconceptions and projecting and promoting good feeding practices in the community.

She would like to express appreciation for the excellent work that South Asia Infant Feeding Research Network is doing to help Governments in the regional countries attain the overall objective of child survival through improved nutritional interventions. I commend your efforts towards developing collaboration and inter-linkages between institutions in regional countries working in the area of child nutrition.

She would like to give you my personal assurance that recommendations from this important meeting will be implemented in letter and spirit and my Ministry will see to it that projects for which support is provided by our international partners are closely monitored so as to ensure their implementation.

For more information, contact:
Haji Ahmed Malik
Principal Information Officer
Press Information Department (PID)
Tel: +9251 925 2323 and +9251 925 2324
Fax: +9251 925 2325 and +9251 925 2326
Email: piopid@gmail.com

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