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Pakistan health ministry to launch national program to address malnutrition in country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s national health ministry said on Saturday it had decided to launch a national nutrition program to address the issue of malnutrition in the country, in coordination with the planning ministry and provincial governments.

The decision was made at a maiden meeting of the National Nutrition Task Force, presided over by Health Secretary Nadeem Mahbub. The high-level task force was constituted on the directives of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Pakistan has witnessed extensive consequences of malnutrition, including devastating birth defects for babies, impaired brain development in young children, and reduced work capacity among adults. 

The health ministry said the incumbent government was cognizant of the serious situation of malnutrition aggravated by global conflicts and climate change leading to food insecurity and high inflation.

“The [task force] has been constituted to provide technical oversight and guidance on Nutrition Policy and programming, developing future directions and roadmaps for nutrition landscape in the country and facilitate and carry out inter-sectoral and multisectoral coordination and advocacy around nutrition,” it said in a statement.

The ministry said it had directed its nutrition wing to prepare a new PC1, planning tool for the development of a project, in coordination with the Planning Commission and the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) to avoid duplication and cover the areas and interventions which were not covered previously.

In his remarks, Additional Health Secretary Syed Moazzam Ali highlighted the importance of fresh data on malnutrition for proper policy and programming and stressed the need to carry out the National Nutrition Survey as soon as possible.

“Provinces are the real game changers in the success of any program and their strong collaboration and commitment toward nutrition programming is pivotal to address malnutrition in the country,” he said.

Special Health Secretary Syed Waqar-ul Hassan stressed upon the need for convergence of all sectors and stakeholders to address the root cause of malnutrition, highlighting that the ministry alone could not eliminate malnutrition.

The meeting was attended by country representatives of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), representatives from donor and UN organizations, international and national NGOs, line ministries and provincial government representatives along with academia.

Dr. Mehreen Mujtaba, nutrition director at the health ministry, shared Pakistan would hold its first-ever National Nutrition Conference in June-July, this year to get the guidance of local and international experts in the fields of health and nutrition, thanking participants for their valuable contributions to the meeting.

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