Hidden hunger' present in over half of Pakistani in children.

KARACHI -- The alarming prevalence of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in children across the country is undermining Pakistan's ability to achieve its development potential, said speakers at Aga Khan University's Conference on Nutrition and Early Human Development. Vitamins and minerals, or micronutrients, are vital components of good nutrition and health which promote physical and intellectual development in many important ways. A lack of iron, vitamin A or vitamin D is often referred to as 'hidden hunger' as symptoms are not visible as in other forms of malnutrition such as wasting and being underweight. But a lack of these essential micronutrients can lead to serious, lifelong repercussions including delayed growth, reduced immunity to disease, frequent fatigue and poor school achievement. Over six out of ten children (62.7 per cent) across the country are vitamin D deficient while more than half of under 5s (53.7 per cent) suffer from anemia or a lack of vitamin A (51.5 per cent), according to the 2018 National Nutrition Survey (NNS). These nutrition deficits are present across all socio-economic strata and are noticeable in the country's most affluent areas. 'Poverty isn't the sole cause of Pakistan's malnutrition challenge as you can see vitamin and essential mineral deficits in the wealthiest households,' said Prof Zulfiqar A Bhutta, founding director of Aga Khan University's Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health. 'Our nutrition challenges aren't just the responsibility of the ministry of health. Malnutrition affects indicators in education, gender equity, as well as our ability to address social inequalities. That's why we need solutions that cut across sectors such as agriculture, education and clean water and sanitation, which actively involve parents and communities.' The 2018 NNS shows that the country faces a triple burden of malnutrition with micronutrient deficiencies, undernutrition and obesity co-existing in Pakistan's population. In his...

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