February 2, 2011 Liz Borkowski, MPH 0Comment

Some villages in Pakistan’s Sindh province are still underwater following August’s floods, and a new UNICEF survey has found that nearly one-fourth of the children under five there are malnourished. The deputy head of UNICEF Pakistan, Karen Allen, calls conditions “shockingly bad” and compares them to “the worst of the famine in Ethiopia, Darfur, and Chad.” The Guardian’s Declan Walsh notes that other parts of the country are successfully recovering from the floods (the number of people in camps and roadside settlements has dropped from 3.3 million in October to 166,000), but Sindh “has long had some of the worst poverty levels in South Asia.”

Especially worrisome is Sindh’s severe acute malnutrition rate of 6.1% among children. Children who reach this advanced state of malnourishment “are ten times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than healthy children,” UNICEF reports. “If they do survive, their development and learning is poor and their income earning potential as adults is reduced.”

Today’s severely malnourished children will bear the effects of current deprivation all their lives, and as a result of it may struggle to provide adequate food for their own families. Regardless of how much of the Sindh province’s high malnutrition rate is due to entrenched poverty and how much to the floods, food aid at this juncture could improve the province’s prospects for reducing poverty in the future.

UNICEF will be working with Sindh’s government on a repose that “will focus on acute malnutrition management and prevention over a period of 18 months.” They report that around 120,000 malnourished women and children have been enrolled in feeding program, and UNICEF has received $198 million (donated and pledged) out of a required $251 million. At the national level, Declan Walsh reports that a UN appeal for $2 billion to help Pakistan’s people survive until the summer has brought in 56% of what’s needed.

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