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Islamabad

April 1, 2017

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Parliamentarians vow to end malnutrition and hunger

Islamabad

Parliamentarians from different political parties made a firm commitment to end hunger and malnutrition in Pakistan through implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 2.

The pledge was made at a national dialogue organised by Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance Pakistan (SUNCSA Pak) and Micronutrient Initiative (MI) here on Friday. 

Opening the meeting, Dr. Tanveer Ahmed, chairman of SUNCSA Pak and CEO of HANDS said, this dialogue will provide an opportunity to parliamentarians and policy makers to discuss the role of different stakeholders, challenges, opportunities and way forward to address the issue of malnutrition and food insecurity. 

Sharing the role of Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, Aslam Shaheen, Chief of Nutrition Planning Commission/SUN Focal Person said, Pakistan signed the global SUN movement in 2013 in a collective effort to improve nutrition. “Unfortunately, we missed many MDGs and could not achieve nutrition and health-related goals. However, the SDGs offer yet another opportunity to improve our development indicators,” he stated.

Dr. Naseer Muhammad Nizamani, Secretary SUNCSA Pak and Country Director MI termed Pakistan’s malnutrition crisis as being amongst the worst in the world, with no improvement in sight for decades. “ We need to urgently address this issue in order to safeguard the country’s development. Nearly half of all children in Pakistan are malnourished, and this undermines their mental and physical growth, as well as the country’s prospects for development,” he maintained.

Discussing the role of parliamentarians in implementation of SDG 2, Cecilia Garzon, Head of Nutrition at the World Food Programme (WFP) Pakistan said, about 67% of the households cannot afford a minimum nutritious diet. Explaining the human impact of malnutrition, she said, “By year 2030, out of 34 million children less than five years of age, approximately 15 million children will be stunted, 5 million will be wasted and 21 million will be anemic.” She said parliamentarians must prioritize nutrition and implement actions required in the short, medium and long term.”

Dr. Ramesh Kumar MNA and member Standing Committee of Health believed that political differences should be set aside and all parliamentarians should work together to address malnutrition.

Saira Iftikhar MPA from Punjab said she was working with different MPAs to form a Parliamentarians Group that will specifically work on malnutrition. She said, the government of Punjab has adopted a multi-sectoral Nutrition Strategy and is now developing a stunting reduction programme for 11 affected districts of Punjab. 

Dr. Meher Taj Roghani, Deputy Speaker of Provincial Assembly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said, SDG 2, which aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030, will require sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices, equal access to land, technology and markets and international cooperation on investment in infrastructure and technology to boost agricultural productivity “We have comprehensive Nutrition Strategies and other laws but lack the commitment to implement these pieces of legislation,” she regretted. Mehar added that the KP government has declared nutrition as an emergency and is making efforts to protect the next generation from malnutrition.  

Rehmat Saleh Baloch, Minister of Health Balochistan appreciated the assistance of donors and development partners, but called for allocation of domestic financial resources for nutrition. “We intend to expand the Balochistan Nutrition Programme to non-covered districts; have enacted protection and promotion of breastfeeding law; and are now taking concrete steps to implement this law by activation of infant feeding board,” he said.

Delivering the vote of thanks, Dr. Abdul Baseer Achakzai, Director Nutrition, Ministry of Health appreciated MI and SUNCSA for gathering legislators to discuss the issue of hunger and malnutrition. He said, the economic consequences emerging from current prevalence, as documented in NNS (2011) and PDHS (2013) is $7.6 billion annually, which is nearly 3% of the GDP. “We have to invest in nutrition if we want to avoid a demographic nightmare. Pakistan’s leaders must urgently respond to the challenge of malnutrition and hidden hunger, and must priorities evidence-based policies to address this crisis,” he said. Dr. Achakzai also called for exchange visits of parliamentarians in different provinces for cross-learning to scale up nutrition programmes at the provincial level.

The meeting was attended by over 25 parliamentarians from the national and provincial assemblies. 

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