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Peshawar, PAKISTAN – In December 2018, Nutrition International partnered with the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) to highlight the importance of nutrition at the 33rd PMA Biennial Medical Conference in Peshawar. For the first time, nutrition played a major role in the discussions. Conference attendees explored a multi-sectoral approach to nutrition and the impact of integrating nutrition services into existing health platforms.

The Honourable President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Dr. Arif ur Rehman Alvi, delivered the opening address, calling for a more focused approach to eliminate malnutrition through a comprehensive strategic framework. He also emphasized the important role the media plays in raising awareness around issues of malnutrition, poverty and population growth. President Alvi stressed the need for curbing stunting, eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, controlling population growth, improving access to quality education and public health services in order to achieve the dream of Naya, or new, Pakistan.

To highlight the critical role of nutrition in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, Nutrition International hosted a panel discussion on the need for strategic partnerships and collaborative efforts to strengthen nutrition as a cross-cutting theme across multiple sectors. Participants included government representatives, and medical and technical experts. The panel identified the need for urgent action towards the SDGs to bring down maternal deaths to 70 per 100,000 live births and neonatal deaths to less than 12 per 1000 live births, reduce infant mortality and ensure access to quality healthcare services for all.

“Investment in nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can save more than one million lives each year and increase the country’s GDP by at least two to three per cent annually,” said Dr. Faaria Ahsan, National Program Officer, Maternal and Child Nutrition & Health, Nutrition International, in her presentation to the conference. “The government has laid the roadmap to fight against malnutrition by initiating a commendable nutrition program for four million children affected by stunted growth through a comprehensive and social protection framework. We at Nutrition International are committed to working alongside the government to make this program a success.”

The conference resulted in key recommendations such as integrating task forces on nutrition and family planning to curb malnutrition and the alarming rate of population growth and implementing nutrition-related strategies and Nutrition Acts to get a larger provincial inter-sectoral strategy on nutrition inclusive of micronutrient supplementation, community- based awareness and counseling.

The conference, attended by over 600 health practitioners, medical and paramedical staff, young doctors, parliamentarians, academia and journalists, provided an in-depth understanding of the central role of nutrition in the health and well-being of individuals and communities.