QUETTA: A new programme to prevent stunting among children in Pakistan’s Balochistan province has been launched by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with the provincial government’s Planning and Development Department.
The three-year project in Pishin district will provide nutrition support to more than 20,000 pregnant and nursing women, and children under five years of age.
Malnutrition rates in Balochistan are alarmingly high. Currently, more than half of all children under five are stunted – have low growth for their age – and 16 percent of the population is malnourished. Anaemia affects 70 percent of children and three quarters of pregnant and breast-feeding women.
“The Government of Balochistan wishes to prioritize the issue of malnutrition in the province,” said the Honourable Chief Minister of Balochistan, Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri, at the launch of the initiative today. “The government is working in close collaboration with the World Food Programme and other partners to eliminate this menace from the province”.
Recent research indicates that malnutrition in Pakistan leads to an annual loss of 3 percent of GDP, or approximately US$ 7.6 billion per year. Malnutrition undermines the physical and mental physical development of children, reduces their ability to learn well in school, and has a life-long impact on their health and productivity.
“The Health Department has taken many initiatives to address the problem of malnutrition in the province,” said the Honourable Minister for Health, Mir Rehmat Saleh Baloch. “The Planning and Development Department, the SUN Secretariat and provincial Nutrition Cell are working with their partners to achieve better nutrition for the children and women in Balochistan”.
The new initiative, which aims to break the inter-generational cycle of stunting and malnutrition across Pishin district, is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is aligned with the Government of Pakistan’s Vision 2025 and Global Nutrition Targets under Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement. It will be implemented in 22 Union Councils of Pishin district and will engage more than 188 female health workers in providing WFP’s ready-to-eat nutritious products along with key behaviour change messages to the target groups.
“One of the reasons for stunting and wasting among our children is that their parents are sometimes not able to provide them with a nutritious, balance diet,” said Dr. Baseer Khan Achakzai, Director Nutrition, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination. “However, the government and is fully committed to working with its partners to implement this project.”
“Four out of five households in Balochistan cannot afford a minimally nutritious diet,” said WFP Representative and Country Director in Pakistan, Finbarr Curran. “That is why WFP is committed to providing the technical expertise to combat stunting and undernutrition in liaison with the Government of Balochistan, its line departments and other stakeholders in in the province”.
H.E. Dr. Brigitta Blaha, the Ambassador of Australia in Pakistan. Representative from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also spoke on the occasion and ensured their support for the smooth implementation of the project in Balochistan.
The project will be implemented in collaboration with the provincial Nutrition Cell; the provincial Lady Health Worker Programme and the Health Department of Balochistan.
Other collaborating partners including UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the provincial Peoples Primary Healthcare Initiative which will provide technical and implementation support.