177,000 children in Pakistan die from malnutrition before they turn 5


Pakistan faces huge micro-nutrient deficiencies which have a deep influence on the immunity, growth, and mental development of children. Each year, over 177,000 Pakistani children expire prior to their fifth birthday because of malnutrition.

Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam highlighted the issue while speaking to participants of a workshop titled ‘Addressing Zinc Deficiency through Biofortification of Zinc Wheat’ on Wednesday.

The workshop was mutually arranged by the Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah), HarvestPlus, and the National Fortification Alliance at the Ministry of National Health Services. It was appeared by agents from many government sections, civil society organizations, and UN agencies.

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“In Pakistan, with the collaborative support of HarvestPlus, three biofortified wheat varieties which are high in zinc have been released for general cultivation in the country,” he said, adding that “with our joint efforts, biofortified zinc wheat varieties have been cultivated on 360,000 hectares this year”.

The minister further stated more than 1.6 million metric tonnes of bio-fortified wheat grain production were anticipated with the existing yield at the time of harvest.

“Biofortification is progressing well in Pakistan and has great potential to help reduce zinc deficiency and stunting in the children of our country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sanaullah Ghumman, general secretary of Panah, stated malnutrition and nutritional aspects contribute towards large morbidity and mortality.

Dr. Mohammad Imtiaz, wheat value chain expert at HarvestPlus said a team under the Commercialization of Biofortified Crops (CBC) program functioned with an extensive range of shareholders from the public and private zones in Pakistan to promote nutrient-rich biofortified zinc wheat varieties.

“We have created biofortified wheat production hubs in five districts including Faisalabad, Khanewal, Multan, Bahawalpur and Rahimyar Khan,” he said.

Additionally, Dr. Mohammad Imtiaz said that technological aid will be provided through the hubs to nominated farmers and also help in the combination of bio-fortified grain after harvest.

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