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IMF calls for measures to address stunted growth, malnutrition

ISLAMABAD: A delegation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday visited the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) headquarters as part of their ongoing visit to Pakistan to assess the economical and financial challenges faced by the country.

The IMF delegation was led by Harald Finger, Advisor and Team Leader and Ms. Taline Koranchilian Deputy Director Middle East and Central Asia, whereas BISP Chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar and Secretary Omar Hamid Khan along with senior management represented the BISP.

Harald Finger in his brief remarks appreciated the BISP performance and contribution towards the national social protection and helping the vulnerable to fight poverty while addressing the issue of malnutrition and stunted growth.

He pointed out the overall economic challenges faced by the country and said that social protection is one of the key areas to be focused. He added that BISP has impressive engagement working model to address the wider canvas of social protection.

The BISP secretary briefed the delegation on various initiatives, programmes and activities of BISP as well as its national and international partnerships. BISP is contributing towards women empowerment by supporting 5.7 million marginalized women of this country, through cash transfer programme (both conditional and unconditional transfers), he said, adding that it strongly believes in imparting international excellence, utilization of modern technology and implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for the marginalized population in line with international standards.

He apprised the delegation that BISP has state-of-the-art social researcher’s team from Harvard, MIT and LSE to develop Social Protection models. They were also apprised of the public private partnerships of BISP which have contributed towards innovative approaches of tackling poverty and providing opportunities to vulnerable women to seek socio-economic empowerment.

Dr Sania Nishtar in her remarks said that her role is to address the issues of governance and policy matters related to the board meetings. She said the organization has zero tolerance for corruption and her job is to make the organization efficient and transparent. She said she foresee the growth of data engine of BISP through National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) in the years to come as the sole source of information sharing to facilitate the national social protection work in the country on a massive scale.

The BISP secretary further explained that on average in one out of every three children is suffering from stunted growth in Pakistan. The case in Sindh and Southern Punjab is even worse as there are 2.5 million women affected due to this every year, he added.

He said the rate is all time high and alarming and demands immediate measures to respond. BISP has formulated the strategy to address the looming issue of stunted growth and related health problems, he explained.

The IMF team was informed that 2.4 million children have been enrolled in schools under the Waseela-e-Taleem programme. They were also briefed on the future plans of BISP where it intends to bring in 8 million beneficiaries in its fold after update of the National Socio Economic Registry, thus contributing to the government agenda.

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