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The Pakistan National Nutrition Coordination Council (PNNCC) held its maiden meeting in Islamabad on Friday. The creation of the council has been hailed internationally, since the Prime Minister chairs the council with six ministers as its members reflecting both a multisectoral construct as well as high political commitment to address malnutrition.

The first meeting was convened by the Vice Chair of the council, Dr Sania Nishtar and was attended by Dr Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Systems, Regulations and Coordination and other members of the council.

The discussion during the first meeting brought the light to myriad nutrition stakeholders working in a fragmented manner with no coordination and significant overlap and duplication.

The council has been created to overcome that in coherence. The members of the council decided that mapping of nutrition stakeholders in digital observatory style documentation should be developed as a starting point. Participants also agreed that nutrition is a whole of the government multisectoral agenda with health, social protection, agriculture, fortification, sanitation and water and behaviour change and communications interplaying. Participants also underscored the need for strong accountability and clear metrics as a starting point for action.

"The National Nutrition Survey 2019 is now powered for district level disaggregation of data. We have the capacity to target nutrition pockets of the worst and this level of information will help us to target interventions in specific areas", said Dr Sania Nishtar.

"Our definition of nutrition centers on malnutrition in all its forms and hence it is not just under nutrition but also on the over nutrition and obesity ends of the spectrum that we need to focus attention. Both of these co-exist in the same population and in the same areas.

All participants agreed that a lot of work is underway across all provinces and still there are peculiar nutrition challenges that need to be tackled through a multisectoral approach in a well-coordinated manner. Further, stock taking will be undertaken to replicate best practices and experiences around multisectoral and multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Speaking to the experts and members of task force, Dr Zafar Mirza stated, "The commitment of the government is strong at the highest level in government to address malnutrition that is reflected in many integrated actions that have been undertaken. This specifically requires multifaceted collaborations to build up on synergies to ending malnutrition across Pakistan".

Looking ahead, coherence will be essential for lasting results, he added.

This high-level meeting brought together a robust roster of policy experts and administrators from Ministry of Planning Development and Reform, Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination, Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division, Ministry of Industries, Ministry of Climate Change, Health Departments and Secretariats of all four provinces, AJK and GB, Resident Coordinator - UN Pakistan, UNICEF, Business and Civil society alliances of Scaling up Nutrition (SUN), Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Punjab Social Protection Authority, Provincial Task Force for Nutrition Sindh and Utility Stores Corporation.

The PNNCC will meet again on December 8, 2019 and in the meantime, the Ehsaas Nutrition Strategy will be developed to give clear direction on coordination and priorities under nutrition.-PR

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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