PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department has planned to provide free food supplements to children suffering from malnourishment and prevent occurrence of stunting and wasting, highly prevalent in the province.
Officials said that health department was purchasing nutritional food worth Rs42 million through Unicef. They said that the plan was aimed at scaling up nutritional status of children and preventing other ailments caused by malnourishment.
Officials said that a decision to put in place nutritional services at the government-run health facilities was taken in view of the malnourishment among children. Last week, chief minister declared malnutrition as emergency and directed the health department to start giving free services to the population.
“We are procuring nutrition supplements to be given to children and women suffering from malnutrition,” said officials.
Health dept purchasing nutritional food worth Rs42 million through Unicef
They said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the only province in the country that declared such kind of emergency and allocated amount to purchase ready-to-use-food (RUTF) and nutritional milk to be given to patients in primary healthcare facilities including rural health centres (RHCs) and basic health units (BHUs).
Officials said that severely malnourished children would be referred to district headquarters hospitals for secondary level complications where they would be admitted to stabilisation centres being established shortly.
“Currently, health department provides nutrition services to children and women in Swabi, Haripur, Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, Bannu and Dir Upper with the financial support of DFID and the plan will cover all districts,” they said.
Officials said that the department was also revising the Integrated Health Project to tackle the issue of malnutrition and put brakes on manageable health problems.
The project with an outlay of $17million seeks to establish 500 sites in all RHCs and selected BHUs to control malnourishment.
In each of the 26 district headquarters hospitals of the province, stabilisation centres will be established to manage malnourished children by giving them food supplements.
Malnutrition occurs among children owing to lack of nutritional requirements that results into wasting and stunting as well low immunity and exposing victims to host of infections.
According to National Nutritional Survey, conducted in 2011, the wasting rate among children below five years of age was 17.3 per cent while 47 per cent suffered from stunting due to non-availability of balanced diet. Prevalence of wasting is acceptable in five per cent population of children and according to World Health Organisation 15 per cent is an emergency level, which needs to be coped with immediately.
Officials said that nutrition was a regular programme of the health department but after declaration of emergency, the donor agencies had also shown interest to safeguard children from avoidable complications. They said that UN and other agencies wanted to support the department in addressing issue of nutrition among children.
Officials said that along with provision of nutritional stuff at the health facilities, the parents, especially mothers, would also be informed about safe hygienic practices to ensure safety of their children. “We need to inform people that they should take care of cleanliness and wash hands before and after eating,” they said.