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ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN: Nutrition International and its federal and provincial government partners recently hosted a national dissemination event on a school-based weekly iron folic acid supplementation (WIFAS) program. This was a pilot project for in-school adolescent girls. The project, which ran between 2019-2022 in the Lodhran District of Punjab, Pakistan, reached more than 5,000 adolescent girls in 50 public-sector schools with the recommended scheme of WIFAS. It also enhanced their knowledge about nutrition and iron deficiency anaemia. The dissemination event was organized to share the pilot project’s accomplishments, good practices and overall learnings.  

“Girls constitute 48% of the total adolescent population in Pakistan and half of them are anaemic,” explained Dr. Shabina Raza, Nutrition International’s Country Director for Pakistan. “Addressing their nutritional needs is critical not only for their health and well-being, but for the generations they produce.”  

While the Government of Pakistan’s Adolescent Nutrition Strategy and Operational Plan (2020–2025) includes WIFAS, an implementation model for delivering the program in practical settings has been needed. The pilot project — which was implemented in collaboration with the District Health and District Education Authorities in Lodhran, with technical oversight and leadership from the Nutrition Wing of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination (MoNHSRC), the Integrated Reproductive Maternal Newborn, Child Health & Nutrition Program (IRMNCH&N) Punjab and the Secondary Health Care Department of the Government of Punjab — sought to address that.  

The WIFAS project demonstrated remarkable success in a short time. Increased levels of awareness about anaemia prevention measures, acceptance of WIFA supplements and almost complete adherence to IFA tablets among those that received them, demonstrates the effective delivery of the WIFAS pilot project. “The pilot phase was successful in showcasing an operational model of implementing the WIFAS program for in-school adolescent girls and generating acceptance from all stakeholders, including national, provincial and district-level government authorities, schools, communities and beneficiaries,” said Dr. Raza.  

The project dissemination event was attended by more than 80 participants, including: Dr. Khawaja Masuood Ahmed (National Coordinator in the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination), Dr. Faisal Waheed (CEO of District Health Authority Lodhran), Dr. Fazal Majeed (Director Nutrition, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Dr. Musa Khan (Project Director, Integrated Health Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Dr. Abdul Latif (District Health Officer, Swabi), Mr. Ayaz Kambho (Assistant Director Education, Lodhran), Dr. Naseem Katkezi (District Health Officer Pishin) and representatives from international development organizations, civil society organizations, academia and the media. 

Dr. Nadeem Jan, Federal Minister for National Health Services and one of the key speakers at the event, expressed his appreciation for the “great initiative” and effort of Nutrition International and the Nutrition Wing of MoNHSR&C in running the pilot. In particular, he noted that “the WIFAS pilot project has been a well-coordinated and comprehensive program.”  

“Health and nutrition specifically rank high among Canada’s international assistance priorities,” added Mr. Lukas Van Arragon, Second Secretary (Development) at the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad, who also attended the event. “The WIFAS program has been an exciting and promising initiative, and this event provides an excellent platform to emphasize the crucial work being done to address anaemia among adolescent girls.”  

Building on the successful pilot, Nutrition International has expanded the program to two new districts: Swabi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pishin in Balochistan. In its new phase, which runs between 2022 and 2025, the project will reach at least 60,000 adolescent girls with WIFAS and appropriate education about anaemia.