Did you know that malnutrition causes 54% deaths in children living in developing countries annually? According to UNICEF, study from May 2016 : Monitoring the Situation of Children and women Current Status and progress, nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are attributable to under nutrition, translating into the loss of about 3 million young lives a year.
Even though malnutrition may bring to mind images of children dying of poverty, your seemingly healthy child may also be suffering from malnutrition. In developing countries like Pakistan, where more than half of all children suffer from stunted physical and mental growth, this issue needs to be addressed.
There is a critical need for awareness amongst parents and children on the importance of a healthy diet and how best to incorporate them in their daily food intake. Parents are aware that nutritious foods such as milk, vegetables, lean meats and fruits which contain the right mix of protein, fat and carbohydrates are essential to their child’s growth.
What many parents are not aware of is that certain vitamins and minerals are equally essential for a child’s physical and mental development. Iron and Zinc deficiencies are known to be a major cause of stunted brain development in children before adolescence. As per National Nutrition Survey 2011, Planning and Development Division children of 0-5 years old are deficient in Iron and Zinc, 43.8% and 39.2 % respectively.
While these deficiencies are growing health concerns today, they can also be countered. Major food companies in Pakistan are attempting to address this issue by launching children’s snacks such as biscuits and cereals that are enriched with Iron and Zinc, which can help reduce the imbalance of Iron and Zinc in a child’s diet.
UNICEF also supports the addition of healthy supplements in a child’s diet to ensure deficiencies do not occur. It may be difficult to get children to eat healthy foods, and they may not be enough. Iron and Zinc supplements, in the form of healthy snacks can prove to be a viable solution if such products are commonly available.
By Sami Wahid