UNICEF and Punjab provincial government hold workshop for media on stunting
Media to play a key role in spreading awareness about and reducing stunting
Islamabad, Pakistan - 26 January 2017: A media workshop on stunting was organised jointly by UNICEF and the Planning and Development Department of the Government of Punjab in Lahore today. The aim of the event was to sensitise journalists and media to one of the most pressing issues of Pakistan that affects more than one out of three children in Punjab alone, and represents a serious obstacle for the development of the country as a whole.
Stunting is the physical manifestation of underlying, persistent and severe nutritional deficiencies, and severely hinders the growth and development of a child. It is associated with suboptimal brain development, which may have long-lasting harmful consequences for cognitive ability, school performance and future productivity.
The technical expert on the issue, Dr. Shehla Zaidi, Associate Professor and Program Director at the Department of Community Health Sciences, Agha Khan University Karachi explained that stunting may begin whilst a child is still in the womb; thus, the nutritional status of the mother is critical for the future health of the child.
The Punjab MICS 2014 survey shows that every third child in Punjab suffers from chronic malnutrition (stunting). While stunting has shown a downward province-wide trend since 2007, this masks serious problems in some districts. In Dera Ghazi Khan, the worst effected district, however, the rate stunting is as high as 50.9 per cent.
“The good news is that we know exactly what causes stunting and how to treat it”, said Angela Kearney, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, “Stunting can be prevented through very simple actions that are done during pregnancy and the first two years of life such as exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months, as well as the provision of wheat, oil or salt fortified with vitamins and minerals and use of vitamin supplements for pregnant women and children. Another important measure that can easily be taken is handwashing with soap to prevent diarrhoea and other water borne diseases.”
The workshop was attended by journalists from news and entertainment television, radio stations, newspapers and bloggers. Famous media personalities such as, Waseem Badami, Noor ul Hasan, Maria Memon, Rehman Azhar, Irfan Ahmed Urfi and Danish Saeed gave their suggestion on covering the issue and bringing it to the public’s attention.
“The media, needs to be provided with good stories related to stunting and malnutrition, and a good level of coordination needs to be maintained for this,” said Waseem Badami, Analyst and TV Show Host.
Maria Memon, another TV show host said, “This is something I would personally take forward and I look forward that you all point us ahead, that’s when we can really make people understand the issue.”
Noor-ul-Hassan, a prominent TV show host, stressed the importance of ensuring mothers' health. “These things need to be included not only in our syllabus but also in films as dramas to educate the masses.”
The journalists pledged to do everything in their power to bring the issue up on their respective media outlets and after a fruitful discussion with development partners agreed on ways how they could work together to this end.
One of these ideas was to use mobile phone communication platforms such as Ureport- PakAvaz or social media for regular exchange on data and facts, as well as the collaboration on producing compelling media content to tell how badly stunting affects the development of children.
Dr. Shabana Haider, Member of Health, Planning and Development Department, Government of Punjab thanked all participants and announced that a full-fledged “stop stunting” campaign will be rolled out shortly to improve the nutrition indicators in the province. She also reiterated that the media will be a critical partner in the campaign.
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