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Health and nutrition survey provides vital information on Pakistan earthquake survivors

© UNICEF video
The health and nutrition survey carried out in the Pakistan earthquake zone by UNICEF and its partners found that children under the age of five were the most vulnerable.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 9 May 2006 – Seven months after the terrible earthquake that devastated Pakistan in October, malnutrition persists as one of the major problems for children under the age of five in the affected areas. But the situation is gradually improving, thanks in part to an ambitious survey of the condition of earthquake survivors.

Coordinated by UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization in collaboration with Pakistan’s Ministry of Health, the joint survey has provided vital information needed to improve health and nutrition interventions.

“We needed to have a baseline in order to have a monitoring process established,” said UNICEF Nutrition Project Officer Moazzem Hossain, explaining how the massive project came about. Dr Hossain added that the post-earthquake survey emerged from a need “to see whether the situation is deteriorating or whether the situation is improving and whether the interventions are working.”

Four different sample groups

The data collected in the survey have been helping agencies on the ground to monitor their continuing relief efforts, making sure that the most vulnerable children get the best possible care and assistance.

Collecting the complex data was a challenging task, since the earthquake zone included difficult terrain in two different areas, Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Azad Jammu Kashmir. To ensure accuracy, the health and nutrition survey used a sampling that was representative of survivors living in communities as well as camps for displaced people.

“Altogether, we did four different sampling frames,” said Dr. Hossain. The two representative communities were Manshera in NWFP and Muzaffarabad in Azad Jammu Kashmir; the other two samplings were representative of camp populations in both regions. All four population groups were surveyed using the same methodology and the same questionnaire.

© UNICEF Pakistan
Collecting the data for the survey in the Pakistan quake zone’s difficult terrain was a challenging task.

Survey recommendations

Results from the survey showed that children under five were the most vulnerable and were disproportionately affected by the earthquake. In Muzaffarabad alone, more than 10 percent of young children died during the disaster.

In terms of nutrition, the findings also indicated that a high proportion of families were consuming more than five categories of food each week – an encouraging sign, though their consumption of meats, fruits and grain products was too low.

The survey brought to light hygiene and sanitation concerns in some areas as well. For instance, it found that almost half of the Manshera community population and a third of those in NWFP camps were defecating in open fields, increasing disease risks.

Among the recommendations coming out of the survey were the following:

  • Targeted supplementary feeding for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers
  • Improved infant feeding practices, with a focus on breastfeeding and proper complementary feeding
  • Increased hygiene education and practice on the use of latrines and hand-washing, and better sanitation management in the camps.

The survey has been helping the Government of Pakistan, UNICEF and other partners working in the worst-hit areas to develop effective action plans for helping children and families who are still at risk.




5 May 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on a survey assessing health and nutrition conditions in earthquake-affected areas of Pakistan.

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