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European Union support boosts fight against malnutrition in Pakistan

28 October 2011, Islamabad – New funding worth Euros 4.3 million (US$5.48m) from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department, ECHO, will help to counter malnutrition in flood-affected and food-insecure areas of Sindh and Punjab.

“This significant new ECHO funding will allow UNICEF and its partners to make a real difference for children who are malnourished, as well as reducing future malnutrition through education of caregivers. It is a real game changer under the current conditions,” said Dan Rohrmann, UNICEF Pakistan Representative.

The ECHO funding will support the screening of 630,000 children aged between 6-59 months for malnutrition and the treatment of more than 81,000 children identified as malnourished. In addition, 400,000 pregnant and lactating women will be screened for malnutrition and 52,000 enrolled in supplementary feeding programmes. Micro-nutrient supplements will be made available to up to 750,000 children and pregnant and lactating women. In addition, more than 1 million caretakers of children aged under-five will receive counselling and health education on infant and young child feeding practices, immunisation and hygiene, especially the importance of handwashing.

Malnutrition is a significant issue for Pakistan’s children and has been aggravated by a combination of factors including floods during 2010 and 2011, with crop losses and the stress of displacement, along with underlying food-insecurity and poverty.

Results of a national nutrition survey carried out before the current flood emergency found that, on average, 58 per cent of households in Pakistan were food-insecure, meaning they lacked access to adequate food. Almost a third of children across the country were underweight, with the situation worse for children in rural areas. The rate of acute malnutrition (15.1 per cent) was at a critical level, while severe acute malnutrition (5.8 per cent) was at a very high rate. If children remain untreated, they are at higher risk of mortality, and are more susceptible to disease, as well as life-long stunting and cognitive impairment.

“This year’s floods in Sindh and Balochistan, combined with the devastating effect of the 2010 floods and pre-existing food and nutrition insecurity, have left many children with increased vulnerabilities, including severe acute malnutrition. We now have the opportunity to reverse the inter-generational cycle of deprivation and exclusion that will forever change the lives of these young children and mothers. By investing in the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children we invest in the future of Pakistan,” said Mr Rohrmann.

“UNICEF is very grateful to receive this generous new funding from ECHO that will make an important contribution in combating malnutrition both now and in the future.”



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