ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday the government would take every possible step to meet the needs of the poor and destitute.

Mr Khan spoke at a meeting where he was briefed on five homeless shelters – also known as panahgahs – in Islamabad as well as other shelters in the country.

According to a press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Khan was satisfied with the establishment of shelters in Islamabad. He directed the authorities to ensure there is no compromise on the quality of facilities provided the underprivileged and to ensure they are served with dignity.

He said the government would utilise its resources to expand the shelter project, and would ensure philanthropists in this regard.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar, Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Secretary Mohammad Ali Shehzada and Pakistan Baitul Mal Managing Director Aon Abbas Bappi and others attended the meeting.

Dr Nishtar briefed Mr Khan on the shelters in Islamabad, saying that the data of people staying in these shelters is updated every day so it can be used to improve service delivery and shared with philanthropists and donors who have been supporting the government.

Mr Bappi also gave a presentation on the expansion of the shelter network across the country.

The press release said that Mr Khan also approved an amendment to the Baitul Mal law in principle.

Strategy on prevention of stunted growth

Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed special assistants on health and social protection to formulate a comprehensive strategy on how to prevent stunted growth among children in collaboration with the provinces.

While chairing the first ever inter-ministerial meeting of the Pakistan National Nutrition Coordination Council (PNNCC), he said the strategy will be presented in the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

The meeting was attended by Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar, who is also vice chair of PNNCC and hosts the secretariat of the council, along with Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza, Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood, Adviser to the PM on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood, Adviser to the PM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam Khan, SAPM on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan, chief secretaries of all four provinces, GB and AJK, federal secretaries and experts from Unicef.

It is the government’s priority to address the issue with remedial measures, the prime minister said, adding: “This not only impacts children mentally but also limits their physical capabilities. Unfortunately, any plans formulated in the last ten years have proven ineffective for both women and children in need. So Ehsaas Development initiative has started to work on this and hopefully come up with viable solutions to be implemented,” he said.

The prime minister, in his first speech to the nation held up the MRI of a stunted child, highlighting the issue and since then, efforts have been going on in this regard. The recently launched Ehsaas Nashonuma is a conditional cash transfer programme, which aims to tackle stunting among children under two years of age, along with pregnant and lactating mothers. In the first phase, 35 Ehsaas Nashonuma centres have been opened across nine districts of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2020

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