Daily Dawn in its editorial on April 19, 2023 highlighted the issue of malnourished children and urged the state to address the nutritional needs of vulnerable children in flood-affected areas.
“Although the waters of 2022’s devastating floods have receded, the long-term impacts of the climate event continue to haunt the victims, particularly children. According to the UN, the number of malnourished children in the flood-affected areas has increased greatly, even though malnourishment was already prevalent before the deluge. A UN survey says that one-third of youngsters between six to 23 months suffer from moderate acute malnutrition, while 14pc of infants are exposed to acute severe malnutrition, which can be deadly. UN officials say that before the floods, child wasting was quite high, but that after the deluge “emergency levels” are being witnessed, especially in Sindh and Balochistan. Sadly, even before the floods worsened the situation, Pakistan was fighting an uphill battle against child malnutrition. Unicef has termed the situation “quite dire”, with wasting “heavily prevalent” and some 10m youngsters suffering from stunting.
The state needs to address the nutritional needs of vulnerable children urgently, for as UN experts have noted, the damage to health caused by malnutrition may be irreversible. The UN says $5.5m have been allocated for food security interventions, but more funds are needed. While the economy may be in a tailspin, and economic conditions abroad are also experiencing turbulence, thus affecting donor inflows, funds must be cut from other non-essential heads and channelled towards children and adults in flood-affected regions, who must have enough to eat. Even though Ramazan is coming to a close, zakat funds and other charitable contributions made during the holy month can be tapped to address children’s immediate nutritional needs. Moreover, the power elite must take time from their palace intrigues to come up with a long-term plan to address the menace of child malnutrition, and give our youngsters a chance to live a better tomorrow. In fact, the general health, education and rehabilitation needs of the flood victims should not be forgotten in the web of crises.”
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2023