Weighty matters: Separate budget to tackle malnutrition

Published: May 26, 2015
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‘Eliminating undernourishment can add 2-3 % to GDP’. STOCK IMAGE

‘Eliminating undernourishment can add 2-3 % to GDP’. STOCK IMAGE

ISLAMABAD: 

Despite numerous humanitarian efforts the long-standing crisis of chronic malnutrition in Pakistan still looms big. Meanwhile the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms has decided to allocate resources in the Public Sector Development Plan (PSDP) at the federal level to address malnutrition in the country in the upcoming budget.

Participants at a self-assessment workshop which was organized by SUN Secretariat, Planning Commission of Pakistan in collaboration with World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday, expressed grave concern over the continued chronic malnutrition situation in the country.

While sharing the details of the workshop with The Express Tribune Dr Baseer Achakzai, Director Nutrition Wing, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC) said currently addressing malnutrition is one of the biggest challenges for the government.

However, he said international donor agencies are making all efforts to support Pakistan to address malnutrition. However the major issue is that they all are spending funds without consulting the federal health ministry.

“I really appreciate the efforts that the UN agencies are putting in to help Pakistan to address malnutrition but it would be more useful if during planning process they consult the federal ministry regarding the priority area where the funds need to be spent,” he said.

Dr Achakzai said that during the workshop Hassan Nawaz Tarrar, Secretary, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms assured that a separate development budget was to be allocated to address chronic malnutrition in the upcoming budget.

“Since 2009 government had stopped funding to address malnutrition leaving Pakistan solely dependent on foreign funding,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lola Castro, country director of the World Food Programme (WFP) Pakistan deliberated that two out of every five (44%) children under five were stunted, 32% were underweight and 15% suffered from acute malnutrition, according to the National Nutrition Survey 2011.

According to the press release she said that the last SUN self-assessment workshop was held in May 2014 to monitor progress since joining the movement of Pakistan in 2013. She emphasized that 2015 represents a critical threshold as SUN movement will be concluding its strategy of 2012 – 2015 and this assessment would provide input in the global strategy that would be developed for the era post 2015.

Hassan Nawaz Tarrar, Secretary, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms in his statement said that the government of Pakistan is cognizant of the situation of malnutrition in the country and is ready for the required interventions proposed by various networks.

He also deliberated that malnutrition is a long-standing crisis that Pakistan has been facing and the real problem still looms big.

He also emphasized that future productivity will be less than those of nutritionally well off nations and by just getting rid of malnutrition, Pakistan can add 2-3 % in its GDP and in the long run much more due to the productive workforce that is going to be produced.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2015. 

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