More than 50 million Pakistani intake inadequate zinc for health: Syed Fakhar Imam

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RAWALPINDI,   (Parliament Times) : Micronutrient deficiencies are wide spread in Pakistan and have profound effects on immunity, growth, and mental development of children. Every year more than 177,000 Pakistani children die before their fifth birthday due to their or their mother’s malnutrition.
This has been said by Mr. Fakhar Imam, Federal Minister forNational Food Security and Research. He was speaking to the media workshop “Addressing Zinc Deficiency through Biofortification of Zinc Wheat” at local hotel in Islamabad. The workshop was jointly organized by HarvestPlus, PANAH and National Fortification Alliance at Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination.The workshop was attended by a large number of journalists, reporters, representatives from various government departments, civil society organizations and UN agencies.
Syed Fakhar Amam Federal Minister,National Food Security and Research said that more than fifty million people in Pakistan have inadequate zinc intake which is an important micronutrient for our health. In Pakistan, with the collaborative support of HarvestPlus, three biofortified wheat varieties which are high in Zinc have been released for general cultivation in the country. With our joint efforts, biofortified Zinc wheat varieties have been cultivated on 360,000 hectaresthis year. More than 1.6 million metric tons of biofortified wheat grain production is expected with current crop at the time of harvest. Biofortification is progressing well in Pakistan and have great potential to help reducing zinc deficiency and stunting in the children of our country.
Earlier Mr. Sana Ullah Ghumman General Secretary PANAH welcomed the participants and said that that malnutrition and dietary risk factors are top human risks contributing to increased morbidity and mortality. Healthy diet and better nutrition could help in reducing disease burden and mortality in the country.
Mr. Munawar Hussain, Consultant/Advisor HarvestPlus said while sharing the objectives of the workshop that role of the media is important in raising awareness among population about issues like Zinc deficiency. He requested media to play their due role in raising awareness among farmers and other value chain actors about significance of biofortification of wheat in addressing zinc deficiency.
Dr. Imtiaz Hussain, Director Crop Science Institute,National Agricultural Research Center said that wheat constitutes 60% of the diet of common population. Biofortification of Wheat is the most suitable and sustainable strategy to address the Zinc deficiency. Government of Pakistan has included biofortification as a part of its strategies to address malnutrition in the country.
Dr. Muhammad Imtiaz, Wheat Value Chain Specialist at HarvestPlus said that the Commercialization of Biofortified Crops (CBC) programme is a partnership between HarvestPlus and GAIN. The project works with a wide variety of stakeholders from the public and private sectors in Pakistan to popularize nutrient-rich biofortified Zinc wheat varieties. He mentioned that we have created biofortified wheat production hubs in five districts viz: Faisalabad, Khanewal, Multan, Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan. Technological support will be provided through these hubs to selected farmers and also help in aggregationof biofortified grain after harvest
Dr. Khawaja Masuood Ahmed, National Coordinator Nutrition and NFA at Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, said that provincial governmentsmay be encouraged to prioritize procurement of biofortified wheat.
Dr. Shahzad Ali Khan Vice Chancellor Health Services Academy, said that Zinc deficiency has negative impact on health of children and adults. Zinc deficiency is one of the cause for high rates of stunting in children. He said that inadequate intake of Zinc causes growth retardation, loss of appetite, and impaired immune functions.
Ms. Afshan Tehsin Bajwa, Chairperson National Commission on the Rights of the Children said that good nutrition is fundamental right of every Pakistani. She appreciatedthe progress made in the development of biofortified wheat in Pakistan and hoped that more people will be able to receive wheat having high amount of zinc.
Dr. M.Yaqub Mujahid, Country Manager HarvestPlus, thanked allthe participants, media, government representatives and nutrition development partners for making the workshop successful. He reiterated the commitment of HarvestPlus to continue supporting the relevant stakeholders both in public and private sectors addressing zinc deficiency through biofortification of wheat.