Lahore: To foster the efforts for scaling up nutrition in Pakistan, a meeting of the “Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement’s Business Network (SBN)” was organized in Islamabad under the aegis of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms together with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Micronutrient Initiative (MI) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The SBN is a global network supporting SUN countries bringing together the public and private sectors ensuring their respective advantages will substantiate actions to scale up nutrition. Other SUN networks include the United Nations agencies, donors and the CSO networks which are supporting Pakistan’s efforts to tackle malnutrition.
Muhammad Aslam Shaheen, Chief of Nutrition, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms, and the SUN Focal Person, Government of Pakistan, Javed Malik ex-member Planning Commission, Dr. Baseer Achakzai, Nutrition Focal Person for the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, Lola Castro, WFP Pakistan Representative and Country Director, Dr. Tausif Janjua Country Director MI, Sajjad Imran, Country Manager GAIN, government counterparts from the federal and provincial departments, delegates from the eminent business community, United Nations Organizations, nutrition development partners and academia attended the meeting.
In 2010, the SUN movement was launched globally to support national leadership and collective action to scale up nutrition. SUN is founded on the principle that all people have the right to food and good nutrition and unites people from governments, businesses, the civil society, the United Nations, donors, INGOs and researchers in a collective effort to improve nutrition. To date, 54 nations have joined this movement and Pakistan was number 34 to underwrite SUN to tackle high rates of malnutrition (44 percent stunting and 15 percent wasting ) along with micronutrient deficiencies among children below the age of five and pregnant and lactating women. The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms, together with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research and Nutrition Development partners officially launched SUN in Pakistan and signed a declaration of commitment in December last year.
Welcoming the participants, Aslam Shaheen, stated: “I would like to congratulate all of you that, today, the private sector, the government and other partners are sitting together to formulate the SUN business network in Pakistan. This is a critical step taken by the SUN Secretariat in prioritizing the need to invest in nutrition in collaboration with the SBN conveners.”
Speaking on the occasion, Lola Castro, stated that “either through unilateral business investment, or catalyzed by the public-private partnerships, the private sector can support with the provision of the right tools for scaling up nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions including expertise in product development and manufacturing, quality assurance and control, efficient distribution networks as well as supporting the national capacity at the country level.” Ms. Castro gave examples of salt iodization and the development of specialized nutrition products in Pakistan where the private sector played a key role to make it successful.
“In addition to fortified food products, the private sector can promote healthy behaviors, support studies to build new evidence, disseminate appropriate nutrition related messaging, create mother and child friendly work environments, expand outreach to low-income groups/consumers, execute vital research, and build local capacity through technology and knowledge transfer, among others.” Lola Castro said.
“Addressing malnutrition is one of the best investments Pakistan can make for its future,” said Dr. Tausif Janjua. He strongly supported the potential of scaling up of fortification interventions based on the successful model of the Universal Salt Iodization (USI) programme.
“It is a unique movement founded on the principle that everyone has the right to food and good nutrition. It unites people from the government, the civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers in an effort to improve nutrition,” said Sajjad Imran while presenting an overview of the SUN movement in Pakistan.
The representatives of the private sector from multinational and national companies, chambers of commerce and associations took keen interest in the proceedings of the meeting and committed to join the SBN as well as join hands with the public sector to manage malnutrition in Pakistan. It was highlighted that relevant profits should be the means not the objective of the business sector and that they understand that investing in nutrition specific and sensitive interventions are also viable for business. The businesses gave several examples in which they were already supporting some activities, like the in-country production of ready-to-use supplementary food, existing salt and wheat fortification efforts and the effective use of innovations in the IT sector.
Many companies have made commitments to SBN globally. Looking at the potential of the business and public-private partnerships, the Pakistan SUN business network is expected to support the country’s efforts in combating malnutrition.