According to a Scaling Up Nutrition Movement study, malnutrition costs Pakistan US$7.6 billion, or 3 percent of GDP, every year. Malnutrition rates in the country have been alarmingly high for decades. According to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2018, 51.5% children under five are vitamin A-deficient and 62.7% are vitamin D-deficient. The NNS also found that 27.3% women of reproductive age are vitamin A-deficient while nearly 80% are vitamin-D deficient.
Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of preventable blindness and results in increased risk and severity of infectious diseases and morbidity possibly by weakening the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities and is the single greatest cause of osteoporosis. Those with specific dietary needs are particularly vulnerable, including people with underlying health conditions, young children, and pregnant women – where both mother and baby face increased risk of disability or death.
Vegetable oil is widely consumed in Pakistan, making it an ideal vehicle for fortification. Yet, since 1965 when the government made fortification mandatory, compliance has been weak and the sale of unfortified or inadequately fortified oil has continued.