Role of media crucial to improve malnutrition in Sindh
KARACHI: Commitment from media is critical for mobilizing and garnering affirmative action to defeat malnutrition menace in Pakistan as well as from Sindh province.
This was discussed in a meeting organized by Scaling Up Civil Society Alliance Pakistan (SUNCSA, Pak) and Nutrition International with support from Health and Nutrition Development Society (HANDS). The participants from media pledged to actively play their role for prioritizing nutrition agenda at the policy and program levels in Sindh as well as raise public awareness on the adverse effect of malnutrition to bring about behaviour change.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Sheikh Tanveer Ahmed; Chief Executive Officer HANDS said that nearly half of children under-5 in Sindh are stunted which means that they are short for their age due to chronic malnutrition, a condition that has lifelong consequences on physical and mental development. He appreciated the efforts of Health department, the provincial SUN secretariat; Planning and Development Department for leading the response to malnutrition in the province.
He further said that media, being considered fourth pillar of the state, can play a powerful and active role through sustained focus on nutrition reporting using their platform. He urged them to highlight the malnutrition issue using their platform, he added.
Ms Aliya Habib, Project Manager, SUNCSA, Pak/ Nutrition International presented the overall context of malnutrition and status at national and Sindh level. She highlighted that malnutrition not only effects individuals but has dire economic and developmental impacts for the community and nation as well. She added that Sindh has particularly high rate of stunting, where nearly half of children under-5 (48%) are stunted while the prevalence of Wasting is 18 percent in the province as compared to 44 percent and 15 percent respectively of the national average.
The current malnutrition had been estimated to cost the Pakistan’s economy $7.6 billion (3% of GDP) annually. She emphasized that a multi-sectoral and holistic approach including short term and long term evidence based approaches are the need of the hour to address the current malnutrition emergencies.
Pakistan joined the Global SUN (Scaling up Nutrition) Movement in 2013 committing to end malnutrition in the country. SUN Civil Society Alliance Pak is a coalition of over 150 civil society organizations from all federating units, working for the promotion of nutrition agenda and improving the nutrition indicators of the country. The alliance has an active role in mobilizing political commitment for addressing malnutrition at federal and provincial policy level.
In the open discussion session facilitator, Dr. Mohammad Irshad Danish- member SUN Civil Society Network (SUNCSN), said that media has an extremely powerful and challenging role to play when it comes to disseminating information to the vulnerable sections and catalysing political ownership to highlight the issue of malnutrition for guiding public opinion and action for prioritizing the issue at policy level.
Media participants expressed their resolve for tackling the malnutrition challenge head on. They suggested writing news articles, blogs, and case studies, media feeds and other contributions on nutrition and food security issues. They said that emphasizing the human side of malnutrition through focused case studies is the way to attract and sustain attention of public and policy makers.
A nutrition core group of media persons was formed at the end of the session to develop a single platform for prioritizing nutrition from policy and program levels to community levels. The media persons pledged to use their technical expertise and influence for making nutrition a priority for political commitment, government action and public behaviour change.
The meeting was attended by journalists from print and electronic media, representatives from Nutrition Support Program (NSP), PandDD and Health department Sindh, and civil society organizations.