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July 10, 2019

Experts review, endorse National Nutrition Action Plan


July 10, 2019

Islamabad: The government’s commitment to invest in nutrition interventions was demonstrated Tuesday at a multi-stakeholder meeting convened to review and endorse the National Nutrition Action Plan (NNAP). The consultation was preceded by a national workshop and provincial consultations with relevant departments and UN agencies to contextualize planned activities.

Organized by Scaling up Nutrition Movement (SUN) Secretariat, Ministry of Planning Development and Reform (MPDR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the event attracted representatives from various ministries, international donor and development agencies and partners, the private sector, and media.

The speakers agreed that despite the implementation of different projects, progress has been slow and hence alarming. They recommended strengthening of the food system, involvement of private sector, greater investment in behaviour change for improvement in dietary habits, and resource deficiencies as key challenges. The need to develop the right kind of strategy, with roles and responsibilities clearly defined to further scale up nutrition, was also underlined.

WFP’s nutrition specialist Dr. Yasir Ihtesham said, NNAP explicitly highlights the link between nutrition, food security, affordability and other associated sectors to improve malnutrition. “We need to focus on the life cycle approach especially 1000 days’ window of opportunity to accelerate achievements of SDGs. We have made tremendous efforts but issues like convergence, integration, coordination, access, coverage and capacity of frontline workers needs to be further strengthened,” he pointed out.

Deputy Representative of UNICEF Dr Tajudin Oyewale termed the findings of National Nutrition Survey 2018 as very alarming. He congratulated the government for developing the National Multi Sectoral Action Plan which gives inspiration for what really needs to be done to improve nutrition.

Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan, Member Food Security and Climate Change, Planning Commission, appreciated the development of dietary guidelines and the fact that the ECD framework is in its final stages. “Poverty, economic access and affordability of nutritious food are real issues. Unfortunately, the situation has not changed much in the past decade. Different projects are being implemented by provinces and departments, especially the Food Fortification Programme; however, progress has been very slow,” he stated.

Senator Dr. Mehar Taj Roghani emphasised for strict implementation of laws. “The Infant Young Child Feeding Practices in Pakistan are very poor and require for the implementation of a behaviour change strategy,” she said, also recommending promotion and provision of micronutrients to vulnerable population. “Wastage of food is another issue which should be considered seriously,” she added.

Programme Manager, Accelerated Action Plan, Planning and Development Department, Sindh, Dr. MB Raja Dharejo, stressed that the issue of duplication in projects be avoided by breaking silos’ approach. He emphasized that the execution of NNAP should be clear enough among departments, with risk management as an integral part. He highlighted existing gaps in management, ownership and integration, and called for investment on building capacity of human resource at the grass root levels for effective implementation of the plan.

Earlier in his welcome address, Chief of Nutrition/Scaling Up Nutrition Focal Point Mohammad Aslam Shaheen termed nutrition as a multi-faceted discipline with roots in different sectors and ministries and departments. Sharing the key findings of the National Nutrition Survey 2018, he said Pakistan is suffering from triple burden of disease. Besides stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies, obesity and over nutrition have also captured people. He shared that nearly 40.2% of the children under-5 are stunted, 28.9% are underweight, 17.1% are wasted, and the proportion of overweight children under five is 9.5% i.e., almost twice the target set by the World Health Assembly. More than half of the newborns do not start breastfeeding within the first hour of birth. He added that Pakistan has developed the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy (PMNS) 2018-25 as a guideline for cost-effective multi-sectoral planning to combat malnutrition.

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