How Malnutrition in Pakistan Prevents Development

As a developing country, Pakistan cannot afford the huge cost of malnutrition.

malnutritionMalnutrition in Pakistan has emerged as an emergency. It is the biggest impediment in the course of development. The dream of sustainable development cannot be fulfilled without eradication of malnutrition.

Malnutrition has long-term consequences on the health of people and economy of the countries. Some consequences are irreversible like in the case of stunting – an impairment of human development – which results in low productivity.

The economic consequences of malnutrition in Pakistan have accounted for $7.6 billion annually – almost 3 percent of Islamabad’s GDP. This huge economic burden has doubled in its characteristics as these costs are associated with not having proper health and nutrition values. This minimizes the economic participation as well as the burden of diseases to the overall expenditure of the country. It also enhances the opportunity cost of the investments which alternatively can be used for other development purposes.

As a developing country, Pakistan cannot afford the huge cost of malnutrition. Poverty is included in basic causes of malnutrition as it limits the purchasing power of people of healthy foods. Nearly 70 percent of Pakistani households, both rural and urban, are unable to eat a nutritious diet. Awareness, education, agriculture, and women empowerment also contribute to malnutrition.

There are many root causes that need attention to reverse this situation. Pakistan strives in matching its expenses with incomes amidst the huge requirement of developmental expenditures. It has to tackle this issue to sustain its development momentum. With impaired human capital, it is very challenging. Improving malnutrition and reversing this deplorable situation requires huge investments in the following sectors: education, the economy, health, agriculture, and women empowerment.

Private Sector Potential

When resources are scarce, creative solutions in the private sector could help remedy these challenges. While the public sector is responsible for the general health and well-being of society, the private sector can partner with government and non-governmental organizations. These concerted efforts should not be in silos or through Memorandum of Understandings.

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The private sector has an immense market potential for nutrition. The engagement of private sector into this mutual business needs an advanced approach through public-private partnerships which benefits both parties. The success of any ventures or PPPs is conditional to certain principles. The role of private industry is to enhance the economic activity however public service is the domain of governments. The convergence of two extremes is not impossible if mutually benefited plans are devised with good cause.

Islamabad and private industry must continue engaging in mutual collaboration to improve the quality of life for Pakistanis.

Shabbir Khan has a Master of Philosophy in Development Studies (MSDS) from Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology (SZABIST) in Islamabad, Pakistan. He has worked with Save the Children, Nutrition International, WHO and WFP, and currently works at Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), a global Movement founded on the principle that all people have a right to food and good nutrition.