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Citizen Voices

Women And Children Face Alarming Levels Of Malnutrition In Pakistan

An alarming situation of undernourishment, even starvation, face the women in our country. With all our technology and our struggle against droughts, food shortages and famine, we have been unable to provide enough for our own mothers and daughters. The situation is a true marker of the depth of degradation in which our society is steeped.

It is a fact that women bear the brunt of excruciating poverty more than men, especially those who are divorced, separated or widows, and are also forced to raise their children by themselves. Alarmingly nearly half of Pakistan’s children and mothers suffer from acute malnutrition. Nearly 40 million of Pakistan’s population does not get enough food. And this number rises every year as our population grows.

It is also true that children born to malnourished mothers suffer from an increased risk of long-term disease and early death. In Pakistan, about 44 per cent of children under the age of 5 are stunted, 15 per cent suffer from wasting and 32 per cent are underweight. When the burden of providing for their family is added to the above (80% of agricultural workers worldwide are women), we get rankings from multiple studies that suggest that the status of women in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh is among the lowest worldwide. Sindh and Balochistan rank the lowest when it comes to child and mother malnutrition. Culturally, women often eat last, often leading them to sacrifice their food intake for their families.

About 50% of pregnant women and girls in Pakistan are also anaemic, due to iron deficiency, which makes their pregnancies extremely difficult. During pregnancy, this condition becomes particularly alarming, as anaemia contributes to maternal mortality. One-third of children in Pakistan also suffer from anaemia, hindering their growth and making them vulnerable to disease, disability and death. Lack of iron is also linked to a woman’s risk of experiencing post-partum haemorrhage and blood loss.

About 50,000 women die in childbreath every year due to this problem. The children who are born to these mothers often have poor cognitive and motor skills

There is no doubt that this alarming situation can be changed by implementing changes in the socioeconomic conditions of our society and cultural norms. Women must be paid at least equal to men doing the same job. Higher female earnings and bargaining power turn into greater investment in children’s education, health and nutrition, which leads to economic growth in the long terms. A financially strong can change not only her world but also her family’s overall well-being. Women’s economic uplift will eventually greatly improve the nutritional well-being of her children, reducing the incidence of stunting and overall malnutrition

At the same time, we must also engage in promoting a cultural tranquility to address vicious challenges faced by women in our communities, such as early marriage, violence, and sexual harassment, all of which restrict women’s freedom and decision-making. Women should be allowed to seek medical attention more frequently when they are pregnant. Women should be encouraged to participate in decisions about their children’s education, and contribute in reshaping community institutions such as schools and village councils.

Unfortunately, women in developing countries like Pakistan are considered inferior in many regards. Their needs and rights are frequently ignored. Even institutions working on agriculture, food security and nutrition over look them, as they feel the women can’t speak for themselves. Stagnant social systems hardly allows them to flourish, fight or stand up for their rights.

Women empowerment calls for certain changes in this orthodox system. Several studies show improvements in many empowerment indicators are associated with improvements in maternal and child nutrition. Conversely, women’s disempowerment has shown to be associated with poorer child and maternal health and nutrition outcomes. Thus, building a human capital of women and girls is important in correcting nutritional status of the nation and the globe. Women must also have more say in taking decisions about their children’s health, given that they are the primary caretakers.

In addition to raising the status of women, we also need to educate men. Male members should be able to recognise the role of women in the community and family.

Discouraging child marriages, creating a safe environment, and providing social and economic security to ensure the wellbeing of all the members of a society is of utmost importance. Gender inequality, nutrition-related issues and the lack of access and control over resources among women is not only unfair to women and their children, but also reflects bad socioeconomic practices. This results in the misallocation of scarce resources, increased healthcare costs, lowered productivity, and poor human development trends.

Given the vulnerable situation of women and girls in Pakistan, it is also crucial to incorporate gender-sensitive nutrition components into programs at all policy levels.

It goes without saying that regular monitoring and accountability is critical if Pakistan is to successfully address and overcome malnutrition.

Finally, effective and culturally relevant behaviour change and communication strategy need to be implemented and sustained. Religious leaders, teachers, and social leaders can play an important role in promoting women’s healthcare.

We as a society cannot prosper or progress until our females are nourished, and until they are also empowered socio-politically.

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