Afghanistan’s National Nutrition Survey 2013, released on July 15, has revealed a significant improvement in the nutrition status of women and children over the past decade.
The first national survey since 2004, the NNS 2013 was designed to assess the food consumption and nutritional status of a representative sample of children under five, adolescent girls and women in each of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Public Health conducted the survey, with technical and financial support from UNICEF, Central Statistics Office, Aga Khan University and the Silk Route.
“We, from the Aga Khan University, are very pleased that we were able to play our part in assisting different stakeholders in achieving this. Now the greater challenge is putting these results into a framework for action and strengthening public nutrition capacity in Afghanistan,” said Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta, Founding Director of the Centre for Excellence in Women and Child Health at AKU and co-director of the Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children. On the ground, Dr Sajid Soofi, Assistant Professor, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health led the AKU team.
Launching the survey findings in Kabul, Dr Suraya Dalil, Minister of Public Health, Afghanistan, said, “Findings indicate that around 58 per cent of babies were exclusively breastfed for the first six months protecting them from infections and diseases. The iron deficiency rate in children dropped from 72 per cent in 2004 to 26 percent in 2013, and iodine deficiency was also reduced from 72 per cent to 30 percent,” she added.
“The survey included 18,360 households with more than 24,300 children under five and 11,000 mothers within 1,020 clusters across the country. For the first time, we measured over-nutrition among children under-five, adolescent and women population. We found that 11.6 per cent of adolescent girls were overweight and only 2.7 per cent were obese,” said Dr Mohammad Taufiq Mashal, Director General of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan.
“Improvements in the nutrition status of children, adolescent girls and women have made us more optimistic toward the future. Stunting among children has decreased by nearly 20 per cent from 60.5 per cent in 2004 to 40.9 percent in 2013. However, the high rates of wasting and micronutrient deficiencies still pose a huge challenge. I am confident that these findings will pave the way for strengthening action towards the improved nutrition of the Afghan population, especially children and women.” said Akhil Iyer, Representative, UNICEF Afghanistan.
The nutrition status of adolescent girls (10-19 years) was assessed for the first time and the findings highlight that nearly eight per cent of adolescent girls are thin or undernourished and about 30 per cent of them are anaemic as well.
“These findings highlight the dual challenge of acute and chronic malnutrition faced by the country. In addition, the study further confirms the multifaceted nature of the problem of malnutrition and its strong links with availability of drinking water, sanitation facilities and education of mothers. The findings will help the nutrition stakeholders in the country to launch a strong multisectoral response to address malnutrition.” said Dr. Sherin Varkey, Chief, Health and Nutrition, UNICEF Afghanistan.
More details on the website of Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan.