Advocacy Meeting -Bringing Nutrition In the Mainstream Agenda
Pakistan is bearing a massive burden of malnutrition lead morbidity and mortality with Balochistan being no exception. Malnutrition is a problem faced by every district and every village in the province. Due to the limited coverage of the nutrition programs a high number of malnourished children die and those who somehow survive face lifelong devastating consequences in shape of stunted growth and impaired cognitive development, inhibiting them to become productive adults. Increasing the nutrition program coverage would require an increased financial and political backing for which advocacy at various levels is being carried out by the nutrition program.
With an objective to raise awareness among the parliamentarians, an advocacy meeting was conducted on 20th March 2017 at Quetta Serena Hotel. The meeting was organized by the Provincial Nutrition Cell in collaboration with Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance Pakistan (SUNCSA,Pak) supported by Micronutrient Initiative (MI).
The parliamentarians were given a detailed presentation by the provincial program manager Dr. Ali Nasir Bugti on the situation of malnutrition in Balochistan and were also briefed on the ongoing nutrition interventions in the province. The presentation also included major challenges faced by the nutrition program and the role of parliamentarians for addressing the challenges particularly in allocating more financial resources was also elobrated.
Dr. Irshad Danish (Program Manager SUNCSA, Pak) in his remarks shared that impact of malnutrition is causing mortality and morbidity and also causing a loss of $ 7.6 billion (the estimated impact of malnutrition on learning, earning and health) making 3% of total GDP. He added that investing in ending malnutrition is one of the most cost-effective steps governments can take: every $1 invested in proven nutrition programs offer benefits worth $16, he added.
During the subsequent deliberations, participants emphasized the importance of focusing on immediate actions and identifying priority nutrition interventions, especially the ones that can curtail the increasing child morbidity and mortality in the province.
The chief guest of the event was Mir Rehmat Saleh Baloch, Provincial Minister Health. Chairperson Health and Population standing Committee Dr. Roqaya Saeed Hashmi, MPAs Zamarak Khan Achakzai, Masooma Hayat, Shahida Rauf and Raza Ali attended the meeting.
While addressing the audience Mr. Rehmat Saleh Baloch, Minister Health Balochistansaid that Government of Balochistan is extremely concerned about the issue of malnutrition and is committed to address it by taking immediate steps in the right direction.” He added that the government’s commitment is reflected in the shape of initiatives that have been taken to scale up the nutrition interventions in the province; including the approval of multi-sectoral nutrition and allocation of financial resources for the nutrition PC-1. The honorable minister said that the government will continue its support to the program and directed the concerned officials the development of new PC-1 on priority basis covering the whole province.
Eng. Zamurak Khan Achakzai, member provincial assembly: “we should invest in nutrition as it is crucial to achieve all development goals.” He said, we should invest on human development rather than merely focusing on infrastructure development.
Dr. Ruqya Hashmai, chairman standing committee on health and population: “we have approved Balochistan Protection and Promotion of Breastfeeding law and now we are in process developing its rule of business to ensure its implementation.”
The participants welcomed the idea of putting the nutrition agenda on the forefront and advocating the need for an increased resource allocation for the nutrition program. The parliamentarians expressed their commitment to bring more investment in Nutrition. They were of the view that “we should work together to improve the situation of malnutrition keeping away the political differences”.
The Meeting was also attended by Ms. Masooma Hayat, Ms. Yasmeen Lehri, Ms. Shaihida Rauaf Atta and Mr. Agha Raza.