ISLAMABAD: Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, who is the World Food Programme’s Special Adviser on Child Health and Nutrition, concluded her visit to Pakistan on Friday with full assurance to the government to cooperate on the issue of malnutrition.

Resources will be provided to Pakistan from different organisations in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank, she said during her meeting with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza.

Dr Mirza informed Princess Sarah that the government had prepared a programme at a cost of Rs538 billion to address the issue of malnutrition and stunted growth.

The Jordanian princess lauded the government’s commitment to address malnutrition across Pakistan, and reiterated that malnutrition has long lasting consequences for families and countries. “I highly appreciate the multisectoral programmatic steps being taken by the government under ‘Ehsaas’ to achieve nutrition driven outcomes,” she told Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Nets. The princess discussed current projects aimed at fighting malnutrition in Pakistan.

Sarah lauds government commitment to address malnutrition issue

Dr Sania Nishtar informed Princess Sarah that five actions had been undertaken since the launch of ‘Ehsaas’ programme, under which the Pakistan National Nutrition Coordination Council was established as the country’s highest coordinating body on nutrition to drive forward multi-sectoral action.

In collaboration with the World Food Programme of the United Nations, a new mother and child health and nutrition initiative has been taken to address stunting in children using specialised nutrition food while conditional cash transfers were in the final stages of getting deployed.

‘Ehsaas’ is planning to introduce a ration card scheme in collaboration with the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and WFP for poverty-stricken newly merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Nishtar said.

Princess Sarah campaigns globally to bring attention to the critical of good nutrition in the first 1,000 days — from pregnancy to two years — as a strategy to reduce malnutrition.

The 1000-day window is critical nutritional outcomes for the health of children and mothers, Dr Sania Nishtar said.

“Our country is grappling with the double burden of malnutrition, under-nutrition in young children and over-nutrition later in life lead to higher risk of costly diseases, like hypertension and diabetes. Both sides of the same coin of malnutrition are on painful display. We are committed to addressing these,” she reiterated.

During her four-day visit, Princess Sarah saw first-hand how WFP is supporting the government in addressing barriers to good health and nutrition for the country’s children. She visited the community health and nutrition centre in Pishin where she learned about WFP work in stunting prevention in collaboration with the Aga Khan University.

The research and evidence generated from the collaboration will support and accelerate efforts in reducing malnutrition, particularly stunting and wasting.

During her meetings with top government officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, the princess advocated for the partners to focus more on the first 1,000 days — from pregnancy to two years — as a strategy to reduce malnutrition.

According to a recently released national nutrition survey, two-thirds of households across the country cannot afford a nutritious diet while only three per cent of children receive the right quality and quantity of foods.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2019