As experienced adults, it is our job to ensure our children are brought up in a way that allows them to function as proactive members of society. Children are the future backbone of our nation. As such, it’s a civic duty on our part to bring them up with care and responsibility, to instil in them good qualities and values, and to nurture them.
Unfortunately, many children face a harsh reality, as they are deprived of the upbringing they deserve. Child abuse and neglect are deeply rooted in our cultural ethos, and many innocent lives are lost as a result.
Malnutrition and unhealthy eating are rampant in Pakistan, and speak of the ever-widening gap in the diverging lifestyles of the rich and poor classes. Both extremes are the result of prevailing physical, economic and socio-political conditions in the country. The statistics paint a truly distressing picture of our societal conditions.
Malnutrition is a grave concern in our developing economy. In Pakistan, 9.6 million children suffer from stunted growth, an indicator of malnutrition—the third largest number in the world. Around 15% of Pakistani children suffer from acute malnutrition, which is one of the biggest causes of deaths among kids below 5 years of age.
Malnutrition isn’t just a lack of effective nutrition; rather, it opens the way for a host of other conditions. As the child doesn’t receive a proper diet to regulate their body’s mechanism, their immune system weakens, leaving them vulnerable to all kinds of life-threatening diseases.
As per the 2015 demographics, there are approximately 64.16 million children aged between 0 and 14 in Pakistan. 43.7% of the children were found to be suffering from stunted growth, while 31.5% were underweight. This is a very high and alarming figure in a country that is already beset by a number of social problems.
Many Pakistani children aged 5 and below suffer from various micronutrient deficiencies, with the percentages given as follows:
- Anaemia – 61.9%
- Iron – 43.8%
- Vitamin A – 54%
- Zinc – 39.2%
- Vitamin D – 40%
Mortality rates are also worrying. For every 1000 deaths, 69 deaths are of infants, while 86 are of young children.
According to the Express Tribune, Pakistan is the 9th largest country in the world in terms of obesity. Almost 25% of Pakistan’s population, including children aged 10 and below, is obese.
Obesity is prevalent particularly among the upper-middle classes, who can afford an indulgent lifestyle. It is widespread in urban areas, and children growing up in big towns and cities are common victims of this medical condition. Many young children are growing obese and becoming diabetic in Pakistan. As per the statistics for 2013, child obesity was at 10%, which is a staggering number.
Malnutrition and obesity are the result of our eating habits, which have gone down the drain with the emergence and popularity of the restaurant culture. More and more families prefer eating greasy fast food over regular, home-cooked meals.
However, obesity isn’t just a result of our eating patterns; rather, it is caused by our society’s attitudes at large. A lot of jobs today entail working on computers while sitting in offices, with the result that physical activity is at a steady decline. TVs and laptops have become the number one entertainment medium for growing children, who spend most of their free time watching increasingly vulgar cartoons and movies instead of developing hobbies or playing sports.
There are increasing reports of children with diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension, which is indicative that they are eating large quantities of junk food and not getting enough exercise.
Many parents are neglectful towards their children without even being aware of it. Immersed in their jobs and their social circles, parents often overlook their children’s basic nutritional and health needs, and the child suffers as a result.
The need to establish a wholesome and healthy regime for your child cannot be stressed enough. A balanced diet coupled with proper recreational activity is critically recommended to ensure children’s future health and wellbeing. It is a sign of bag parenting when you allow you kid to remain glued to the idiot box for hours, or buy them a Happy Meal every day to soothe their tantrums.
Learn to be firm with your kids. Know when it’s okay to give in and when it’s essential to take a stand. Without proper nourishment, your child’s health is at stake. Physically and mentally, they will not be able to keep up with their peers, and their education will also suffer as a result.
Keep yourself informed of your child’s dietary requirements, and make sure they receive a well-balanced diet with all the proper nutrients they need to remain healthy and active.
Best foods for growing kids
Here are some of the world’s healthiest foods that fulfil all the nutritional requirements of young children:
- Nuts, avocadoes, plant oils, peanut butter, tomato sauce and spinach are rich in vitamin A.
- Foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, waffles and cereals are packed with calcium.
- Bananas, orange juice, cantaloupe, potatoes, honeydew, tomatoes and tomato sauce are rich sources of potassium.
- Beans, chickpeas, lentils, fruits (pears, blackberries, apples and oranges), wholegrain pasta, green peas, oatmeal and sweet potatoes are high in essential fibre content.
- Citrus fruits, potatoes and tomatoes are packed with Vitamin C.
- Red meat, beans, tomato paste, chickpeas, lentils, raisins, green vegetables and whole-wheat bread are all good sources of iron.
- Oily fish and margarine are packed with dietary Vitamin D.
Physical activities are vital for children’s development and help them live a healthy and balanced life. It is important to ensure your child gets the opportunity to participate in activities linked to their abilities and interests.
These activities can serve as learning experiences for young kids, as they help in building and refining motor skills, stimulate thinking skills and mental acuity, promote social interaction and the ability to make friends, relieve stress, and improve sleep patterns.
Most of us tend to think of physical activity in terms of strenuous gym sessions and brisk walks. But for growing children, the best physical activities include sports like swimming, horse riding, badminton, table tennis, martial arts, basketball, etc.
Most schools in Pakistan organise sports activities for their students. This is a great thing, as the child’s physical development needs are fulfilled right alongside their educational needs. However, summer holidays are a different matter. During those two long months in the peak of summer, most kids are content to just relax in front of the computer screen and binge on fast food. This negligent attitude causes a serious strain on the child’s health. And that is why it’s incumbent upon the parents to enrol their kids in summer camps to ensure they maintain an active lifestyle during the two months of vacation.
There are many good summer camps in Pakistan, where children can enrol in a range of educational yet fun activities. We’ve compiled a list of summer camps that offer children a healthy dose of physical activity:
Model Town Club, Model Town
Kids Club, Gulberg & DHA
Carousal Events, DHA
BodyBeat Recreational Center (BBRC)
The Retreat, DHA
Pavilion End Club
Gun & Country Club