SEATTLE — Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is optimistic that by 2047, the centennial year of its independence, his country could be among the top ten economies in the world thanks to Vision 2025. “Pakistan is a passionate country,” he said. “It has the extensive potential to turn challenges into opportunities.”
And, Pakistan has quite a few challenges.
Over 60 percent of its population is food insecure, 15 percent suffer acute malnutrition, and it is estimated that up to 11 million children under the age of five face irreversibly limited physical and mental abilities due to malnutrition related stunting.
That’s why the government of Pakistan initiated Vision 2025, a national strategy to fast track human and economic development in the country. “The Vision looks into the future with feet firmly planted in reality, armed with lessons garnered from the past,” Prime Minister Sharif said.
The plan is built on seven developmental pillars: human capital, inclusive growth, governance reform, energy and food security, entrepreneurship, competitive knowledge and infrastructure.
Pillar four, energy and food security, seeks to cut the percentage of food insecure communities in half by 2025. The government is prioritizing both immediate nutrition interventions and long-term policy shifts to achieve this goal.
Immediate Relief for At-Risk Communities
With support from the international development community, the government of Pakistan currently provides conditional cash and food transfers to the worst affected households in the country. As with similar programs set up in sub-Saharan Africa, packages are distributed to households in rural Pakistan when agricultural output is expected not to be sufficient enough to feed these communities.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Pakistan made some progress in reducing food insecurity during the last three months of 2014 through these programs. The number of districts classified as Severely Food Insecure, and requiring emergency intervention, shrank from 12 to four.
FAO noted, however, that as part of a long-term development plan, international NGOs, federal and provincial governing bodies will need to enhance coordination in targeting and monitoring distribution and outcomes in at-risk areas. Remote mountain communities especially, continue to face severe insecurity. The organization also recommended that as part of Vision 2025, policies be adopted that link transfers to national nutrition objectives.
Nutrition Interventions for Mothers and Children
The Pakistani heath ministry has been coordinating community-based nutrition interventions for mothers and young children since 2008. These include education, screenings, outpatient treatments, and referrals to inpatient treatment centers for acute malnutrition. Ready-to-use diet supplements are also widely distributed.
FAO has also developed a framework, the Pakistan Integrated Nutrition Strategy (PINS), to monitor and evaluate these programs in relation to Vision 2025. They want to ensure that intervention during the first five years of life results in maximized mental and physical potential.
Many of the recommendations from the group involve changes in education, communication and national policy. Healthcare training, they say, needs to be based on long-term nutrition goals. And, nutrition needs to be integrated into teacher training and primary school curricula. They also recommended scaling up diet supplement distribution and intensifying Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) programs, which educate new mothers about the importance of breastfeeding and sanitation.
In 2013, Pakistan signed onto the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, committing to a series of public policy and governance reforms designed to foster national health. By integrating nutrition into all sectors: health, agriculture, education, and social protection, the SUN principles aim to create sustainable progress.
The newly released 2014 progress report indicates that Pakistan has so far, followed through on many of these commitments. The Health Ministry has established a SUN Secretariat, and The Ministry of Planning and Development has developed a National Nutrition Committee, both tasked with exploring relevant policy options. And, the country participated in the SUN Budget Analysis Exercise, which tracks and analyzes budget allocations for nutrition programs in order to ensure the government is investing sufficiently.
While Pakistan faces steep challenges if it wants to join the top ten global economies by 2047, rising to meet challenges is in Pakistan’s spirit. “All successful countries and organizations have achieved success by developing shared visions,” said Ashan Iqbal, Minister for Planning, Development & Reform. If the nutrition objectives of Vision 2025 are achieved, the dream of 2047 may very well become a reality.
Sources: FAO, Ministry Of Planning, Development & Reforms, Scaling Up Nutrition 1, Scaling Up Nutrition 2, UNICEF, WFP, WHO