Daily Times: Media urged to shine a light on hidden hunger in Pakistan

LAHORE: Experts at an interactive session on ‘Smart Policy Making on Eliminating Hidden Hunger’ have urged the media to become part of the development agenda in Pakistan to ensure transparency and accountability for quality service delivery to the citizens.

The session, which was held at the Lahore Press Club (LPC) on Tuesday, was attended by senior journalists, field reporters, media and development professionals, representatives of civil society and academia.

Mishal Pakistan – a non-governmental organisation, which is also the Country Partner Institute of the Global Competitiveness and Benchmarking Network of the World Economic Forum – with support from the Australian High Commission organised the session.

The session was specially designed in collaboration with the LPC to encourage journalists and media professionals to understand the concept of smart policy making on eliminating hidden hunger and nutrition awareness.

The data from Mishal Pakistan research shows that the total number of households below the nutritious diet thresholds in Punjab is 65.5 percent, while the numbers for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are 67.4 percent, Sindh 70.8 percent, and 83.4 percent for Balochistan.

Nida Karim of Mishal Pakistan, while briefing the members of the journalists’ community said, “The Smart Policy Making initiative of Mishal Pakistan is aimed at bringing media at the core of the development agenda in Pakistan.”

She added, “The initiative will ensure policymaking through data and real time feedback. This will also make policymakers accountable to the people, which will not only help parliamentarians to improve service delivery to the citizens but will also contribute to improving Pakistan’s competitiveness on global footing, while creating accountability through media.”

Nida went on to say that cost for nutrition per capita of Rs 2,061 per month is the lowest in Punjab as compared to Sindh (Rs 2,306), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Rs 2,152) and Balochistan (Rs 2,415), while the amount is still out of reach of average citizens’ buying power.

“Mishal Pakistan along with the Australian High Commission is engaging policymakers and journalists across Pakistan to understand the dynamics of malnutrition in the country. The session is focused on strengthening the delivery platforms for a better and fact-based coverage of malnutrition stats in Punjab.”

International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) Mass Communication Department Chairman Prof Zafar Iqbal and Shabir Wahgra during their presentations said that almost 24 percent of the population in Pakistan was suffering with hidden hunger, while stunting and malnutrition were immediate challenges being faced by the society.

“The awareness of nutrient deficiency level of iron and iodine in Pakistan remains highest, especially in the urban community with up to 42.0 percent and 61.6 percent, respectively. Women and children remain the ultimate victims of these deficiencies resulting in high mortality rates.”

An estimated 2 billion people – over 30 percent of the world’s population suffer from deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals. Hidden hunger is how health experts often refer to micronutrient deficiencies because most people affected do not show the visible physical symptoms and hence may not be aware of their condition.

Hidden hunger’s effects can be devastating, leading to mental impairment, poor health, low productivity, and even death. Its adverse effects on child health and survival are particularly acute, especially within the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from conception to the age of two, resulting in serious physical and cognitive consequences.

Hidden hunger occurs when the quality of food people eat does not meet their nutrient requirements, so the food is deficient in micronutrients such as the vitamins and minerals that they need for their growth and development.

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