Malnutrition needs addressing

Editorial

IF Papua New Guinea wants to grow the economy, malnutrition and its implications should be addressed.
Malnutrition is a silent emergency in PNG and the underlying cause for the majority of deaths of children under the age of five.
The different government economic and infrastructural development strategies, guidelines and policies had failed to capture malnutrition as an agenda and are left unattended giving rise to the increasing trend of these preventable deaths.
This situation is seriously limiting not only children’s growth outcomes but also their future learning and income earning potential which further perpetuates the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition and poverty.
Tonight, the country will witness the launching of the National Nutrition Policy (NNP) and Strategic Action Plan (NSAP).
The last National Nutrition Policy (NNP) was released in 1995 but despite engaging partners from various sectors, it was a struggle to realise significant improvements in the health and nutrition of the PNG population.
Nutritional planning involves formulation of a nutrition policy and overall long term planning to improve production and supplies of food, ensure its equitable distribution and programmers to increase the purchasing power of people.
Despite yearly budget allocation, including contributions from donor sources, key social and economic indicators in the country remain low and in real terms have regressed.
Child and maternal mortality remain the highest in the Asia Pacific region. Access to schools, doctors and medicine and to clean water is negligible and there is singular apathy towards correcting the situation.
The majority of Papua New Guineans remain outside the measureable wealth creation activities in the country. Their efforts in subsistence agriculture and in the informal sector never rate a mention when the Gross Domestic Product is compiled.
PNG performs poorly also in providing its rural populations with access to safe water and basic sanitation. In urban centres its public service delivery systems are struggling to keep pace with rapidly growing urban populations.
That is the reality we all have to face. Malnutrition cannot be addressed just by the health sector. It is an obligation for all concerned sectors to allocate resources to their respective nutrition sector interventions.
It is essential to put in place the necessary conditions to detect and treat severe malnutrition cases as quickly as possible.
And so the Strategic Action Plan is formulated to tackle the high rates of malnutrition in the country. A well planned and well executed long term project can accelerate the developmental process and the benefits can be rewarding and permanent.
It will need the political commitment from the government to drive it.
We will need to educate the population on the importance of food fortification, food production and livelihood. The access to clean water and sanitation should also be in place concurrently. A good health care system that provides immunisation, oral rehydration, periodic deworming, early diagnosis and proper treatment of common illnesses can go a long way in preventing malnutrition in the society.
Prevention of malnutrition at the community level is the best way to avoid children dying from malnutrition.
Many people are not aware of the benefits of a balanced diet as a result of which they are malnourished. We need to raise awareness among the people about the benefits of nutritious food. Empowering mothers with the information they need to make good nutritional decisions and access vital supplements.
We can talk about so many things but if malnutrition is not addressed, it will be a wasted effort.

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