BISP taking lead in war against stunting: Marvi

F.P. Report

RAHIM YAR KHAN: Minister of State and Chairperson BISP MNA Marvi Memon visited Rahim Yar Khan Saturday where she was briefed on research on the effectiveness of a nutrition programme.

The programme involving Specialized Nutritious Foods (SNF), Cash Based Transfers and Behavior Change Communication (BCC) to prevent stunting among children in district Rahim Yar Khan being carried out by World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with BISP, Integrated Reproductive Mother Neonatal Child Health (IRMNCH) Programme Punjab and Agha Khan University.

The research which will be concluded in 2019 would be showcased to the world for best practices and is thus the focus of much international attention.

This research is being done under the Letter of Understanding (LOU) signed between WFP, BISP and Punjab Health Department to build evidence base of different nutrition sensitive mechanisms that can contribute to the reduction of chronic malnutrition amongst under 2 years of age children in Pakistan. The study is being conducted within BISP beneficiaries having pregnant and lactating women and 6-23 months old children in BISP households.

Speaking to the officials of WFP, Punjab Health Department, Agha Khan University and BISP beneficiaries, Chairperson BISP stated that food insecurity is matter of high concern as 44% of children in Pakistan, 39% in Punjab and 42% in Rahim Yar Khan less than 5 years of age are stunted. This alarming situation needs to be tackled at the earliest. She added that BISP is taking lead in war against stunting as this research would provide a scalable sustainable model for integrating nutrition specific and sensitive approaches to BISP, the premier national social safety net of the country, thus furthering the gains in curbing malnutrition.

The Chairperson added that as these children belong to the poorest segment of society being facilitated by BISP through its Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT), BISP’s role is pivotal in this fight against malnutrition. She said that financial assistance through BISP is effectively helping the downtrodden in meeting their basic needs particularly food and health. BISP Impact Evaluation Studies highlight the positive impact of BISP in reducing malnutrition rates as BISP stipend has increased the monthly food consumption driven by high protein intake in BISP families.

Shahzada Rashid WFP Head Punjab and Salma Yaqub Programme Officer WFP briefed that that the project is being implemented through IRMNCH programme Punjab in coordination with Department of Health at district level and in close coordination with Agha Khan University.

“Wawamum” and “Maamta” are being provided to children between 6-24 months and pregnant and lactating mothers respectively. The identified BISP beneficiaries would also be provided with behavior change communication. The research would follow three pathways that include cash transfer within a national social protection programme, women empowerment design and implementation of well structured behavioral change communication interventions to come up with an innovative model to prevent malnutrition.

Chairperson BISP held meetings with all the four groups of BISP beneficiaries enrolled in this research, where she was briefed by the field team on process of identification of beneficiaries for research.

The beneficiaries have been divided into four groups. The first group receives cash grant only, the second is provided with cash grant along with SNF, the third one is getting cash assistance along with enhanced BCC and the fourth group is being provided cash assistance, SNF and Enhanced BCC . She also visited the homes of enrolled BISP beneficiaries where she inspected the follow up and data recording mechanism.

Chairperson BISP reiterated that the results of this research would highlight the best nutrition sensitive approach that can then be replicated all across Pakistan and eventually the world to address malnutrition, stunting and low IQs. Better nutrition would improve IQ levels and thus guarantee a better future for Pakistan.