Nutrition International has launched a new project in Balochistan, Pakistan to combat malnutrition through targeted interventions that reduce incidences of childhood diarrhoea. In partnership with the Balochistan Rural Support Program, the project aims to increase the use of zinc and low-osmolarity oral rehydration salts (LO-ORS) to treat diarrhoea in children under five and create awareness about diarrhoea management through exclusive breastfeeding and proper nutrition.

“Overwhelmed health services, diverted funding, reduced mobility and the fear of infection are already hampering women’s and children’s access to health services during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Shabina Raza, Nutrition International Pakistan Country Director. “Particularly in Balochistan, poverty, malnutrition and weak health systems have been a concern even before the pandemic, and caregivers, pharmacists and healthcare workers lack awareness about appropriate treatment of diarrhoea.”

In Balochistan, the prevalence of diarrhoea in children under five is severe, with nearly one in five impacted. However, due to low awareness about diarrhoea management, only 32.9% of children suffering from diarrhoea are treated with LO-ORS, and a mere 5% receive zinc. The WHO recommends zinc and LO-ORS as the first treatment for childhood diarrhoea.

Nutrition International, along with the Balochistan Rural Support Program, will support the procurement and free distribution of zinc and LO-ORS, train community resource persons and lady health workers, and generate awareness among caregivers about childhood diarrhoea management beyond the use of zinc and LO-ORS, including exclusive breastfeeding, frequent handwashing, and good nutrition.

“Children are the future of the country. We need to invest in their health,” said Dr. Rubaba Buledi, Parliamentary Secretary of Health, Government of Balochistan. “The government has already declared a nutrition emergency in Balochistan. We urge all partners to extend their programs to all districts of the province and support in reducing malnutrition. Diarrhoea is a major killer among children but can be easily prevented through good nutrition and health and hygiene practices. We appreciate the support of Nutrition International and the Balochistan Rural Support Program in addressing childhood diarrhoea in the targeted districts and would like to extend our full support to the team.”

The project will run from August 2021 to October 2022 in the districts of Quetta, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Noshki and Jhal Magsi, which have been the most impacted by COVID-19 in the province. Nutrition International aims to treat more than 76,000 episodes of diarrhoea among children under five.