ISLAMABAD -  The World Bank has approved a credit of $61.6 million for reduction of stunting among children under 5 years of age in Pakistan by targeting the most affected districts of Sindh where children are below average height for their age.

The Sindh Enhancing Response to Reduce Stunting (SERRS) project will support the expansion of measures to improve the nutrition status of mothers and children in the 23 districts in Sindh where stunting rates are above 40 percent. The project’s two components will increase the coverage of a multisectoral package of services to deliver results related to maternal and child nutrition, hygiene and sanitation practices and quality and diversification of dietary practices; and strengthen key cross-cutting interventions for better management, communication, results monitoring and piloting of a conditional cash transfer programme.

“Stunting is a serious problem in Pakistan remaining unchanged for 50 years. It severely impacts the learning of children which puts them at permanent disadvantage in the age of the knowledge economy”, said World Bank Country Director Illango Patchamuthu. The project is a part of Sindh government’s ambitious accelerated plans to significantly reduce stunting in the province that incentivises behaviour changes by providing a package of services.

The project will target the pregnant and lactating women (PLW) to improve their nutritional status and to reduce the risk of low-birth weight babies. “Providing access to safe and reliable water, improved sanitation and hygiene are key to improving the well-being and productivity of citizens. Poor water and sanitation is detrimental to the development of people, and is a major underlying determinant of stunting in children,” said Francisca Ayodeji Akala, one of the Task Team Leaders of the project.

“By reducing waterborne and sanitation-related health risks that disproportionately affect the poor along with improved household diet diversity and early childhood stimulation, this project aims to reduce the rate of stunting in Sindh,” she added.