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July 14, 2018

Rs10 billion demanded to reverse malnutrition


July 14, 2018

Islamabad : Key challenges impeding the implementation of multi-sectoral nutrition strategies at the national and provincial levels were discussed threadbare at a roundtable hosted Friday to explore synergies for an accelerated response to malnutrition in Pakistan. The need for immediate release of the Rs10 billion block allocation announced for nutrition in the annual budget 2018-19 loudly echoed so that provinces could accelerate the development of their respective PC-1s.

Hosted by SUN Secretariat, Pakistan, in collaboration with SUN Civil Society Alliance (CSA) and Nutrition International (NI), the event also featured an open discussion wherein development partners highlighted areas for amplifying existing efforts to overcome malnutrition. An impressive 80 plus gathering comprising senators, as well as representatives of the federal and provincial governments, UN agencies,development partners, INGOs, and civil society organisations showed up.

Provincial SUN focal persons from Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, Balochistan, FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK briefed the participants about the implementation status of the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategies (MSNS) of their respective regions,with a focus on challenges and future directions.

The prioritisation of nutrition-sensitive interventions by participating sectors of MSNS remains a major challenge in Punjab, as does the availability of funds for sectoral nutrition interventions. The capacity of district level staff on nutrition-sensitive approaches also needs to be built. In charting a way forward, Punjab expressed keenness to hold advocacy sessions with participating MSNS sectors, arrange capacity-building initiatives for district level staff, work on the development of a Nutrition Support Fund, and upscale sensitisation of parliamentarians of nutrition issues, among other actions.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa sees institutionalisation of nutrition-specific programming in concerned line departments as the only challenge, and announced its intention to create a mechanism for harmonised implementation of nutrition interventions in the province. “Provincial forums will be formed for coordination, advocacy, and awareness. Donor support will be explored for alignment of donor-funded projects with the government’s multi-sectoral integrated nutrition strategy,” the KP representative stated.

In AJK, nutritionremains a low-priority development agenda. The situation is compounded by limited donor interest, data limitations, as well as lack of sectoral linkages, technical capacities and integration. Private sector engagement, revitalization of School Health Programme with a focus on nutrition, and development of national guidelines were listed as areas requiring priorityaction.

Addressing the gathering, NI’s Country Director Dr. Naseer Nizamani shared how CSA highlighted the nutrition agenda at the highest policy levels while simultaneously enabling the implementation of provincial multi-sectoral nutrition strategies. Dr. Azeem Khan, Member Food Security and Climate Change, Planning Commission, highlighted the importance of a synergistic approach to reverse malnutrition. They both hoped that the roundtable would deliver concrete action points.

Muhammad Aslam Shaheen, Chief Nutrition/SUN Focal Person, Planning Commission, emphasised the importance of affirmative action to translate national commitments into actionable interventions. Dr. Baseer Achakzai, Director of Nutrition at the Ministry of Health termed the involvement of different departments at the district level as the key challenge. Samia Liaquat Ali Khan, chairperson of UNCSA, Pak, assured that CSA will coordinate with the government and other SUN Networks to chalk out tangible plans for addressing malnutrition. Barrister Zafar Ali Shah assured fullest support vis-a-vis provision of an enabling legislative environment and additional budgetary allocation for nutrition. In the end, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Secretary, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, stressed the need to fast-track the PC1s of nutrition programmes.

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