To review the progress on Nutrition focused programme interventions and their outcomes in Sindh, Provincial Task Force Secretariat for Nutrition, Planning and Development Board (GoS), organized a Round Table Conference in collaboration with Accelerated Action Plan (AAP) for Reduction in Stunting and Malnutrition (P&DD), USAID, UNICEF and World Food Programme recently at a local hotel in Karachi. The aim of the Conference was to provide a platform to all relevant stakeholders and partners to review, share the progress updates and follow up strategies of nutrition focused programme interventions. It was attended by the representatives of Planning and Development Board (GoS), Health, Education, Nutrition Support Programme (NSP), Programme Managers, Stakeholders and Representatives of USAID, UNICEF, WFP, EU/PINS and others.
Dr. M. Usman Chachar, Additional Chief Secretary, Health Department, Government of Sindh termed the round table conference as a landmark initiative by Task Force and collaborating partners which provides an opportunity to all stakeholders to collectively brainstorm and review nutrition and stunting reduction programmes in Sindh. He further said that stunting is a multi-sectoral issue, therefore it cannot be addressed alone. There is a dire need that all stakeholders and relevant line departments coordinate with each other effectively to discuss the key challenges around stunting and malnutrition and come up with their substantial recommendations. He emphasized the need of a holistic approach to tackle the stunting and malnutrition related issues from our country.
Sohail Akbar Shah, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest and Wildlife Department & Coordinator to Chief Minister Sindh for Nutrition in his welcome address said that Government of Sindh accords the highest priority to the multi-sectoral programme interventions, while involving different key departments to improve the nutrition outcomes in Sindh and the roll out of AAP is one of the key examples of such programme. He shared that AAP is focused on both nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive interventions which aim to reduce stunting from 48% to 30% by 2021 and 15% by 2026 in Sindh province. He was of the view that earlier, there were defragmented initiatives but now the vision is much clearer in the form of such programme. Now, after 1 year, Government of Sindh has been able to achieve some results but still substantial efforts are required to overcome the stunting and malnutrition challenge in Sindh. He stressed to all the development partners, donors and civil society organizations to ensure the effective and efficient use of resources and efforts to tackle the stunting challenge.
Dr. Naeem uz Zafar, Chief Economist Planning & Development and Director General, Government of Sindh congratulated all stakeholders and participants for coordinating the efforts to improve the nutrition outcomes in Sindh. He further said that according to PDHS Survey 2016, stunting prevalence in the province was upto 56% and 49% in 2017-18 which indicates 7% reduction. This provides us the clear picture about the situation, related challenges and its future strategies. For successful programme interventions, there is a dire need to integrate the efforts at community level, household level and taluka level and to significantly improve and strengthen district coordination to overcome the challenge. He also reiterated to strengthen the coordination at provincial level through Nutrition Task Force Secretariat which is mandated to coordinate and review the progress of nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive multi-sectoral interventions. He assured continued support and commitment for Nutrition Programmes in Sindh.
Dr. Umar Khan, Nutrition Specialist and Ms. Mubashara Iram from UNICEF gave a brief overview of USAID supported ‘Maternal and Child Stunting Reduction Program’ aimed efforts towards stunting reduction in three targeted districts of Sindh, with a special focus on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. He elaborated that nutrition specific interventions under the programme seek to address the immediate determinants of under nutrition by emphasizing actions that improve the nutritional status of children, mothers and pregnant and lactating women (PLWs). The focus was also given on enhancing breastfeeding practices, quality of complementary foods or children aged 6-23 months, early detection and treatment of severe wasting in young children and improvement in the nutritional status of women by preventing micronutrient deficiencies among PLWs. He also updated that under the enabling environment, nutrition sensitive WASH policies, strategies and sector plan developed and approved by Government of Sindh. UNICEF is also providing the technical support to Accelerated Action Plan to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation framework. Ms. Mubashara Iram from UNICEF briefed about the nutrition sensitive WASH interventions which aimed to reduce the incidence and severity of infection in children while controlling the environmental enteropathy and its potential negative impact on children’s linear growth. Dr. Umar Khan also shared the key lessons learnt of UN Maternal and Child Stunting Reduction Programme. He elaborated that since the programme was based on community driven interventions, therefore, we have been able to achieve the substantial results.
Ms. Ute Schumann, Team Leader EU PINSTA, Dr. Aisha Aziz and Akbar Raza Shah updated on ‘Programme for Improved Nutrition in Sindh (PINS)’ aimed to improve the nutritional status of children under the age of 5 and of pregnant and lactating women (PLWs) in Sindh. They informed that the project has been divided in to 3 components which includes enhancing capacity of the Government of Sindh, covers nutrition-specific interventions and nutrition-sensitive interventions.
Dr. Yasir and Dr. Sajid Soofi from World Food Programme updated on ‘Progress and key outcomes of the programme which was implemented in Thatta and Sajawal districts. They further shared impact evaluation of the programme which indicates significant reduction in stunting in children under 5 years of age.
Raheem Bakhsh Maitlo, Programme Manager, AAP and his team shared ‘Overview and updated progress on the implementation of Accelerated Action Plan (AAP) for stunting reduction and malnutrition’ funded by Government of Sindh (GoS) and World Bank (WB). He informed that AAP has been developed and being implemented for the reduction of stunting and malnourishment with an overarching goal for ten years to reduce stunting from 48% to 30% in first five years and 15% by 2026 in Sindh by increasing and expanding coverage of multi-sectoral interventions. In this programme, number of interventions was implemented under various sectors including health, sanitation, hygiene, social protection and Social Behaviour Change communication (SBCC). He also shared the success stories under the programme.
The presentations was followed by Thematic Discussions and Group Work by all participants and sector specialists in order to define the way forward to further improve the efforts, the conference. Later on, key thematic areas were identified to brainstorm and to identify the key bottlenecks, opportunities and recommendations. All the groups for defined thematic areas presented their proposed recommendations during the conference.