ISLAMABAD – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Pakistan today signed a landmark, three-year agreement to research and identify the most cost-effective strategies to improve the nutrition status of children between 6 and 23 months of age who are covered through social protection systems. The agreement was signed by WFP, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and the Primary and Secondary Health Department in Punjab.
“This is the first time such research is being done in the context of an existing social protection scheme, rather than a specially-created research project. The findings will give Pakistan a great opportunity to build an evidence base for its social protection programmes,” said WFP Country Director ad interim Stephen Gluning. “WFP Pakistan is proud to be a part of this initiative.”
The Government of Pakistan has declared nutrition a national emergency and has included nutrition in its “Vision 2025” national plan. The main actors working in nutrition have agreed on the importance of basing future operations on scientific conclusions. This research will be based on real operations and will compare the efficiency and cost-effectiveness, from a nutritional perspective, of different types of nutritional interventions. The results are expected to be the basis for future efforts to prevent malnutrition in Pakistan within the social protection sector. This venture is also strengthening partnerships among different government departments that collaborate to improve nutrition in the country.
“There is no clear evidence on the cost-effectiveness of interventions currently being used vis-a-vis their impact within the social protection sector. Pakistan cannot afford to continue as they have; prioritization for impact on nutritional indicators is a must,” stated Cecilia Garzón, the Head of Nutrition of WFP Pakistan. “This research will give us solid evidence for evidence-based programming that can change the nutritional situation of the most vulnerable people of Pakistan and thus the country’s future.”
BISP is the largest safety net programme in Pakistan, and plans to use the findings to help inform the scale-up of its programmes in the future. By partnering with BISP and the provincial government of Punjab, WFP hopes to ensure that assistance will have the greatest impact on the poorest of the poor.
Research will be carried out in the Rahim Yar Khan district in Punjab province. Five different groups will be considered (including a control group) to compare the outcomes of the different types of interventions, includes combinations of different interventions including cash-based transfers through the BISP-run social protection scheme, enhanced behavioral change communication and the provision of specialized nutritious foods, which will be supplied by WFP. All interventions will be implemented in close collaboration with the Lady Health Worker programme of the Primary & Secondary Health Care Department Punjab.
The 2011 National Nutrition Survey shows that 44 percent of children under five years of age are stunted. This condition impedes mental and physical development, and hinders capacities to learn, thereby constraining futures and impacting future incomes. Different initiatives are being taken to reduce these alarming percentages, and the research by BISP, WFP and the Primary & Secondary Health Care Department is expected to be of great value for future decisions and programming.
Since 2008, WFP has been addressing acute malnutrition and stunting by implementing nutrition programmes in Pakistan, including wheat and salt fortification. WFP programmes are aligned with the Government of Pakistan’s priorities for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger and the goals set within Vision 2025.
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in 80 countries.
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