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Schoolgirls nutrition plan awaits PC approval

ISLAMABAD: Expected to take off early this year, the Education Ministry’s plan to improve primary school enrolment and nutrition among girls in rural areas has been awaiting approval from the Planning Commission (PC) for eight months.

The Rs 5.15 billion plan for five years target 3.375 million school-aged girls in 93 districts. In case of further delay, escalation in the project cost is being feared because of growing inflation.

“Our project has fallen victim to traditional bureaucratic inertia. We plan to begin work on it this year but it is unlikely because of delay in approval from the PC,” said a senior ministry official.

He said the UNICEF took keen interest in the project, which might help the ministry do the needful at the earliest.

Shortage of funds is also being blamed for the delay in the launch of the Nutrition Programme for Government Girls’ Primary Schools.

Under the programme to be executed in 28,627 schools will be provided with high quality fortified packed biscuits weighing 75 gm daily for 210 days in a year.

The biscuits will contain 75 percent recommended daily intake (RDI) of micronutrients. One 400mg tablet of Albendazole for de-worming will be administrated to every girl twice a year by trained officials.

The ministry official said the fortified biscuits and de-worming tablets would improve nutritional status of school-aged girls by addressing blood and Vitamin A like deficiencies.

He said only a girl with a minimum attendance of 22 days a month would be entitled to provision of biscuits and tablets.

He said low nutritional status was responsible for high dropout rate and low educational performance of primary schoolgirls.

He said the programme was meant to increase enrolment of female students in primary schools, improve their nutritional status and encourage community participation to increase nutritional awareness.

He said the programme would create public awareness of nutrition and improve community mobilisation for adopting healthy lifestyle.

He said Tawana Pakistan Programme, launched by Social Welfare and Special Education Ministry in 2002 with Rs 616 million to provide cooked meal and food supplements to schoolgirls in 29 districts, had failed due to certain technical and administrative reasons. Huge funds allocated for the programme were misused as a result, he said. He said the experience gained during the Tawana Pakistan Programme would be befitted from.
Source: Daily Times
Date:11/27/2008

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