ISLAMABAD: In a bid to rid the country of malnutrition, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), World Food Programme (WFP) and Integrated Reproductive Mother Neonatal Child Health Programme and Nutrition Programme Punjab have signed an agreement to launch a research project for the prevention of this health problem.
The agreement was inked by WFP Country Director ad interim Stephen Gluning and BISP Director General Shahid Gul Qureshi in Islamabad.
Under the pilot phase of the project, the beneficiary households under BISP having 6 to 23-month-old children will be provided nutrition supplements by the WFP coupled with communications for change in behaviour in the Rahim Yar Khan district.
The project will be implemented through primary and secondary health departments of Punjab in close coordination with an internationally recognised academic research institute.
A network of lady heath visitors will be engaged in social mobilisation for behaviour change communication. The findings of the research will demonstrate the impact of cash transfers when combined with nutrition supplements on the lives of the poorest.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, BISP Chairperson Marvi Memon stated that with 43.7% children stunted and 31.5% underweight in Pakistan, it was a matter of high priority to address the situation at the earliest.
She added that the unconditional cash transfers under BISP were effectively helping the poor in meeting their basic needs, particularly food and health.
According to the second impact evaluation report of the Oxford Policy Management, BISP has resulted in 19% reduction in poverty, 3% decline in poverty gap, 4% fall in malnutrition rates and 71% of the beneficiaries exercising full control over their stipend that has made them financially empowered.
She insisted that results of the research would highlight the best nutrition-sensitive approach that could be replicated all across Pakistan to address malnutrition, stunting and low IQs.
Gluning said the WFP was proud to be part of the initiative as for the first time such a research was being conducted that would provide Pakistan with a great opportunity to use the scientific findings in future policy-making on the social protection programmes.