Islamabad | Pakistan June 30, 2021
Scaling-Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance (SUNCSA) Pakistan in collaboration with the Nutrition International Pakistan convened a ‘National Dialogue on Food and Nutrition Security’, with the members of parliament, civil society, and food and nutrition experts of Pakistan. During the discussion, it was observed that Pakistan is still grappling to solve the serious malnutrition problem of children, women and adolescents.
‘Every citizen of Pakistan has a Great Right to Access Food at Affordable Prices’.Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam
He added that we are working on policies to improve the quality of life of every citizen, with food and nutrition being a top priority. The Ministry of National Food and Research is working to improve protein intake using the latest technologies in organic etiquette through fishing and meat, fruits and vegetables. We hope that the citizens of Pakistan will be prosperous with good quality and standard of living.
Dr. Shabina Raza, Country Director, Nutrition International Pakistan, said her organization is working to improve the nutrition situation across the country through a number of initiatives such as salt iodization, iron fortification of wheat flours, and the addition of vitamin A and D into cooking oils to reach out the maximum population. She appreciated the role of the SUN civil-society alliance of more than 170 organizations that are continuously working to support policies, improve food insecurity and malnutrition. She added that despite decades of interventions and investment, the malnutrition situation in the country has not much improved as several surveys inform us. This situation can only be turned around by making, the Food and Nutrition Security a fundamental right, which we can witness that 106 countries of the world, have made a part of their constitution.
Regional Advocacy Advisor, Nutritional International, Dr. Danish Irshad shared that the Prime Minister of Pakistan reaffirmed his commitment towards addressing Pakistan’s malnutrition issues in his first speech. Dr. Irshad revealed that Pakistan is losing 7.6 Billion US dollars annually, which is equal to around 3% of our GDP. He added that parliamentarians are now well aware of the situation and considering saving this huge loss by developing conducive policies through cross-parties consultative mechanisms to improve Food and Nutrition Security. He expressed his hope that the Government of Pakistan will be sharing its strategy to address the Food and Nutrition Security issue at the upcoming ‘Nutrition for Growth’ Summit to be hosted by the Government of Japan in December 2021.
Syed Saeed Qadir, Nutrition Expert UNICEF Pakistan shared that COVID-19 is directly not causing malnutrition but in the wake of the pandemic, we have observed a significant rise in food insecurity and malnourished children. He shared that due to certain climate change impacts, several parts of southern Punjab, northern Sindh, and Balochistan areas are prone to flash floods and drought situations. UNICEF is supporting the government of Pakistan, over the years to address malnutrition. He appreciated the present government’s nutrition focus but stressed implementation and resource allocation.
Senior advocate M. Arshad Bajwa, Vice President, Supreme Court Bar Association (Punjab seat), briefed the participants on the existing laws regarding basic human rights in the Constitution of Pakistan, as in the neighboring country this right has been enforced by an Act in 2013. At the same time, he stressed the importance of food and nutrition security as a basic need of life and advised the parliamentarians to realize the urgency of the issue and requested to form a parliamentary committee to make Food and Nutrition Security a fundamental human right in the Constitution of Pakistan. He also encouraged Pakistan’s legal fertility to provide support to the parliament to formulate legislation around it.
On the occasion, Badar Uzaman, Policy Program Officer from Scaling-Up Nutrition Movement Secretariat, Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, said that since nutrition is a multi-sectoral issue, it is important to connect and facilitate all stakeholders. He told that the Secretariat was established in 2013 as a result of the global movement. The Secretariat is tasked with formulating policies for the government, liaising and assisting with various nutrition actors such as the private sector, government departments, civil society, donors, and UN agencies. Under this secretariat, six such networks are working to improve the food and nutrition situation in the country, out of which Scaling-Up Nutrition Alliance of Civil Society Pakistan is one of them. He added that as the Prime Minister of Pakistan had expressed his concerns in his first public speech on the stunted growth in Pakistani children due to malnutrition. This is a testament to the efforts of our SUN Civil Society Alliance, which has made significant strides in raising awareness of this neglected issue and is able to include it in the manifestos of the main political parties.
Dr. Rozina Khalid, Nutrition Focal Person, Ehsaas-Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Division shared that the Ehsaas program is based on four pillars in which we are addressing malnutrition under the human development segment. In this regard, Pakistan National Nutrition Coordination Council was established at the highest level, which is chaired by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. We also launched a pilot project named ‘Ehsaas Nashonuma’ in 14 districts across the country to provide social protection, especially for pregnant women and lactating mothers to improve their nutrition intake. She added that Ehsaas program strategy has a core focus on social protection which is why we are focused on making a constitutional amendment in Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan to make Food & Nutrition Security a basic human right of social protection from the principle of policy.
In addition, members of civil society also shared food and nutrition challenges from all provinces and emphasized the need to make food and nutrition security a basic human right in Pakistan. Civil society organizations praised all major political parties for recognizing the importance of food and nutrition security as part of their manifesto. Now is the time for parliamentarians to show strong legislative support and willingness to improve this neglected area through sustainable and long-term legislation and constitutional amendments.
*This national dialogue was conducted online, the recording of which can be viewed through the link given: https://fb.watch/6rYJWPOHKk/
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