Pakistan has a very high burden of malnutrition that has not changed over the last four decades. According to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) conducted in 2011 more than half of the women and children were suffering from micronutrient malnutrition and 44% children under the age of five were stunted. With this level of malnutrition, Pakistan is losing an estimated 2-3 % of its GDP annually. Micronutrient deficiencies are sometimes referred to as ‘hidden hunger’ – as they develop gradually over time and are not always outwardly visible.
For children, micronutrient deficiencies increase the risk of dying due to infectious disease, limit their ability to fight disease and contribute to impaired cognitive and physical development. Deficiencies in iron, folic acid, zinc and Vitamin B12 have been associated with increased vulnerability to disease. Iron, folic acid, zinc, Vitamin A and Vitamin D deficiency affect the cognitive development of children which ultimately impacts on their ability to perform at school. This is a principal factor behind Pakistan’s low educational performance and poor economic progress. It is important that all growing children take recommended daily amounts of the vitamins and minerals, sufficient to maintain good health, learning abilities and mental development.