Nutrition International and Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa kickoff NourishMaa Campaign to promote maternal nutrition

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Nutrition International, in collaboration with the Health Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), launched the ‘NourishMaa’ campaign in the province. The campaign aims to promote maternal nutrition by improving the knowledge and skills of healthcare providers (HCPs) and frontline health workers (FHWs). This campaign, already operational in six districts across Punjab and Sindh, has now extended to KP, focusing on two high-burden districts – Mardan and Battagram, where maternal malnutrition rates are particularly concerning.

“The health and nutrition of mothers and children are foundational pillars for the overall development of our society” said Syed Qasim Ali Shah, Minister for Health KP. Emphasizing the critical role of maternal nutrition in ensuring the health and wellbeing of both mothers and children, the Minister underscored the urgency of addressing maternal malnutrition, stressing the pivotal role of healthcare providers in creating a healthier future. He called for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to implement effective interventions and ensure sustained improvements in maternal nutrition across the province.

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The health minister, referencing the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2018, highlighted that women of reproductive age face the triple burden of malnutrition – 14.4% are underweight, 38% are overweight and obese, 42.7% suffer from anaemia with a high prevalence of other micronutrient deficiencies. While KP’s rates of anemia (27.5%) and micronutrient deficiencies are lower than the national figures, concerted efforts are required to further improve these indicators. To address these concerning statistics, the government prioritizes women-centric and equity-based strategies and programs, which have informed the development of this campaign. Appreciating Nutrition International for its support to the Health Department, the Minister for health requested the expansion of the Campaign to other districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with low maternal nutrition indicators.

The NourishMaa campaign, spearheaded by Nutrition International in collaboration with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination (MoNHSRC) and provincial health departments, is designed to complement the government’s ongoing efforts to elevate women’s nutrition in the country. Currently operational in four districts of Sindh – Karachi East, Korangi, Qambar Shahdadkot, and Larkana – and two districts of Punjab – Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur, the campaign now extends to Mardan, and Battagram.

The campaign’s core objectives include raising awareness about maternal nutrition and strengthening the capabilities of HCPs in both public and private sectors, alongside FHWs to incorporate nutrition counselling on their routine practice. Altogether, this initiative aims to reach over 6,000 HCPs and FHWs in the targeted districts, enhancing their knowledge and capacities in maternal nutrition and integrating nutrition counseling into their daily practices. This comprehensive approach aims to create a lasting impact on maternal and child health in the country.

“Nutrition International is dedicated to advancing maternal nutrition in the country through research, program implementation, technical assistance, policy advocacy and capacity building of key stakeholders,” said Dr. Irfan Ullah, Deputy Country Director for Pakistan, Nutrition International while addressing the audience at the launch event. He added, “Improving knowledge, attitudes and practices of health care providers is the key component for creating an enabling environment for maternal nutrition, and this objective is at the core of what the NourishMaa campaign aims to achieve.
Highlighting the campaign’s success in Sindh and Punjab, Dr. Irfan shared that the project reached over 5,600 HCPs and FHWs on different facets of maternal nutrition and their critical role in nutrition counseling. Through interpersonal communication, sensitization sessions, capacity building workshops, and seminars, the Campaign has made significant progress. Additionally, specialized doctors from all targeted districts were trained as master trainers who engaged over 700 HCPs in their respective districts on maternal nutrition. Leveraging diverse media platforms, the campaign reached over 1.6 million people, covering diverse range of maternal nutrition topics. Based on the learnings of the Campaign, Dr. Irfan emphasized to integrate maternal nutrition into the harmonized medical and allied health curriculums and the accountability of the maternal nutrition service delivery should be enhanced within the health sector.

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