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Sindh launches EU-funded programme to reduce stunting rate to 40 per cent

By our correspondents
January 31, 2018

Launching the European Union-funded ‘Programme for Improved Nutrition in Sindh’ (PINS), Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said on Tuesday malnutrition had become a major issue for the province and only sincere and concerted efforts could control the situation.

The government was committed to taking up these challenges on a priority basis, he said while addressing the launch ceremony of the project at a hotel. “The Government of Sindh aims at reducing the stunting rate from the existing 48 per cent to 40 per cent by 2021 in the province.”

The primary focus of the four-year programme is to sustainably improve the nutritional status of children under five years and of pregnant and lactating women. It will be implemented in 10 districts — Shikarpur, Thatta, Kambar Shahdadkot, Larkana, Dadu, Jamshoro, Matiari, Sajawal, Tando Allahyar and Tando Muhammad Khan.

The programme will specifically focus on building the capacity of the government for effective implementation of its multi-sectoral nutrition policy while providing direct assistance to significantly and rapidly reducing malnutrition in rural Sindh.

Acknowledging that with PINS, the European Union (EU) was supporting the government in addressing the key issue of malnutrition, the chief minister thanked the EU and resolved that his government would continue to work with it and other donor organisations.

“The fact saddens me that half of Sindh’s women and children suffer from stunting and malnutrition, which is a great burden. We have to make this programme successful for our province,” he said.

The ambassador of the European Union, Jean-François Cautain, said malnutrition and stunting were a key issue. With this, he added, not only children were suffering but it had an impact on society and the overall growth of Sindh. Mentioning other programmes of the EU on nutrition and poverty reduction, he said the EU’s support to fight malnutrition was one element, but it was important to combine different interventions and enhance coordination along with the Sindh government to get the best outcomes of the initiative.

“Support to improve nutrition status in Sindh is part of EU’s global commitment to reduce stunting at global level,” he said. “Our objective is to reduce stunting at least by seven million children around the world by 2025.”

Mir Hussain Ali, the chief minister’s coordinator on nutrition, said that over the four years of its interventions, the 68- million-euro programme would focus on building the capacity of the government and other stakeholders on nutrition-related policy and strategy development.

“Treatment of malnutrition – severe acute malnutrition from identification, outpatient therapeutic programme care to nutrition stabilisation centres according to protocols – in health facilities supported by an outreach programme to screen children and women, referral system for children’s follow-up, focus on infant young child feeding for preventive work at facilities particularly for children with moderate acute malnutrition, behaviour change communication programme for improved child care, and nutrition-specific sanitation and feeding practices are some of the key objectives that the programme would work to achieve through its interventions.”

Minister for Planning & Development Mir Hazar Khan Bajarani, Sindh Planning & Development Board Chairman Muhammad Waseem, Rural Support Programmes Network Chairman Shoaib Sultan provincial secretaries, Sindh government and EU officials, CEOs and management of RSPs and PINS partner organisations, development professionals, academia and journalists attended the event. Overall, the province has the highest rate of child and maternal undernutrition, 40 per cent and 62 per cent respectively; child anaemia 73 per cent, and food insecurity standing at 72 per cent in Pakistan.

The programme will be implemented by Rural Support Programmes Network, National Rural Support Programme, Sindh Rural Support Organisation and Thardeep Rural Development Programme, with Action Against Hunger and Conseil Sante as programme partners.