As much as 48% of all children under five in Pakistan suffer from inhibited growth and development, one of the highest levels of stunting in the world, according to a report by the World Bank.
During a visit to Pakistan earlier this month, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim warned this trend would have dire consequences in coming years.
Kim told an audience at a university in Karachi that in the age of the digital economy, Pakistan would be left far behind because its young labour force would be unable to compete.
The World Bank report further said that pregnant women in Pakistan are unable to provide the nutrition needed for babies to grow normally. This affects their growth after birth as well.
An editorial in a local newspaper on this topic said the food insecurity of today in Pakistan “is going to feed the jobs insecurity of tomorrow”. It commented that stunted children make for a stunted workforce a generation hence.
More than 60% of Pakistan’s population is under 17, according to government figures. Accurate numbers are hard to come by as the country has not had a proper census in thirty years.
Pakistan’s human development indicators continue to remain one of the lowest in South Asia. Little has been done on the ground to address the issue, experts say.
Health specialist Saad Shafqat said that provincial governments have been unable to address basic issues such as nutrition and child health despite having the resources. “Take for example the hundreds of children who have died in the Thar region due to malnutrition,” he said.