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May 31, 2016

Academic forum launched to promote sustainable nutritional improvement


May 31, 2016


A galaxy of academicians and researchers participated Monday in the launch of the SUN Academia and Research Network Pakistan (SUNAR, Pak), a forum that has been established to promote sustainable improvement in the nutritional status of the people of Pakistan.

The initiative was launched by the SUN Movement Secretariat in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) and the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) Pakistan, and is expected to become a strong, coordinated and vibrant research and academia forum for up scaling nutrition interventions.

The role of the scientific community in addressing malnutrition was one of the key highlights of the discussions. The country director of MI, Dr. Nasser Muhammad Nizamani, shared the objectives of the forum, while member food security and climate change, Planning Commission, Dr. Mubarik Ali hoped that SUNAR, Pak will act as vibrant forum and will play an effective role in addressing malnutrition in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is facing a silent crisis of malnutrition that is amongst the worst in the world, and has not improved for decades. This needs to be urgently addressed in order to safeguard the country’s future development and prosperity. It’s a simple fact that nearly half of all children in Pakistan are malnourished, and this undermines their own mental and physical growth, as well as the country’s prospects. We must appreciate that the government sees adequate nutrition as a key ingredient for overall development and has agreed with donors and development partners to develop federal and provincial nutrition plans of action,” Dr. Nizamani said.

Aslam Shaheen, chief of nutrition at the Planning Commission and SUN focal person, shared the vision and mission of the SUN movement and its activities in Pakistan. He said, SUN is a unique movement founded on the principle that all people have a right to food and good nutrition. It unites people—from governments, civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers—in a collective effort to improve nutrition. Aslam said, the government of Pakistan signaled their commitment to scaling up nutrition; and the Ministry of Planning Development and Reform is currently spearheading the movement in the country. SUN Movement Secretariat has been established in the Nutrition Section of the Ministry of Planning Development and Reform, which is the coordinating body for all SUN networks.

Professor Dr. Ejaz Khan, associate professor at the Health Services Academy (HSA), highlighted the role of academic and research institutions in addressing malnutrition in Pakistan. He said, SUNAR, Pak will be helpful in enabling engagement of the academia with national policy-making processes by bridging the gap between academia, researchers and policy formulators and practitioners. Dr. Baseer Achakzai, director of nutrition in the Ministry of Health, appreciated the establishment of the network.

Delivering remarks on behalf of HEC, Dr. Muhammad Ashraf said, SUNAR Pak has gathered academia and research institutions on a single platform to share their expertise and to promote mutual learning. He said, SUNAR, Pak will provide research-based evidence for advocating policy and legislative reforms as well as bringing forward innovative ideas for scaling up nutrition interventions in the country. Dr. Ali Ahmad Khan, national programme policy officer for SUN Movement Secretariat in the Ministry of Planning Development and Reform managed the ceremony.

Dr. Irshad Danish, manager of SUNAR, Pak said, 50 membership applications were received from all over Pakistan; of these, 45 institutions have been awarded membership of SUNAR. Currently, a 17- member interim Executive Council (EC) has been selected for a year. Later on, the EC will be elected through a democratic process for three years.

The interim EC selected Dr. Fakhar Imam, vice chancellor of Fatima Jinnah Medical University as chairman and Dr. Masood Sadiq Butt, director of the National Institute of Food Science abd Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, as co-chair of the network. EC members took oath and reiterated their commitment for strengthening of the network through collective efforts.

Closing remarks were given by Aslam Shaheen on behalf of Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, secretary of the Ministry of Planning Development and Reform. The meeting, which was attended 45 SUNAR, Pak members, and representatives of INGOs, UN, and government institutions, ended with the signing off ceremony of the pledge for SUNAR, Pak.

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