WHO to establish Nutrition Sentinel Site Surveillance System NSSS in Punjab

World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with the Punjab Health Department has planned to put in place a “nutrition sentinel site surveillance system (NSSS)” for 0-59-month children to assess the nutritional and related health status of the children at the selected sites.

This was revealed by WHO Technical Officer Nutrition Dr Khizar Ashraf, while addressing a workshop organised by WHO in collaboration with Health Department Punjab at a local hotel on Thursday.

According to him, NSSS will also identify and highlight the evolution and projected trends towards a nutritional and health emergency as related to food crises.

The NSSS is built into the existing LHW Programme functioning at the district and provincial level, relying on the state-of-the-art web based system.

After the implementation of this system, he said, nutrition surveillance data would not only be digitally available at district and provincial level but would be analysed in real time and would be available for the rapid response, planning and directing the resources.

Addressing the workshop, Special Assistant to CM on Health, Khawaja Salman Rafique said nutrition situation was a major issue posing challenges in achieving millennium development goals (MDGs) by 2015.

He further said that current levels of malnutrition were unacceptably high and would not only represent a challenge in reaching MDGs but would also constrain economic growth.

As per National Nutrition Survey 2011, 58 percent households are food insecure in Pakistan and 59.5 percent in Punjab.

WHO Technical Officer Nutrition Dr Khizar Ashraf said that more than 29.7 percent children less than five were under weight for their age.

“About 43.7 percent of the children are affected by stunting and about 15.1 percent by wasting.

Around 62.1 percent children and 26.1 percent pregnant women had anaemia in Pakistan,” he said.

While introducing Nutrition Surveillance, Head of Department Preventive Peads, Institution of Child Health Lahore, Dr Shakila Zaman revealed that chronic and acute malnutrition, parallel poverty and higher illiteracy especially among mothers, and the government’s lack of commitment towards ensuring food security were to blame.

She said besides those, structural problems were the inherent ones of improper infant feeding practices and inadequate access to the proper foods.

“In order to improve the situation, essential steps were urgently required, if Pakistan was to attain nationally optimal food security: health and nutrition have proven links to overall educational attainment and thereby to national progress.”

Director General Health Punjab Dr Nisar Ahmad Cheema said the main target group for the surveillance would be children aged 0-59 months.

“Children are more vulnerable to external shocks (lack of food, disease etc) and their nutritional status is more sensitive to change due to external shocks as well as interventions,” he said, adding there were well documented and tested internationally agreed standards for assessing nutritional status.

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