The Multi Sectoral Nutrition Center (MSNC), Planning and Development Board, Government of the Punjab, in collaboration with development partners hosted the Dialogue on the importance of Family Planning, High Population Growth Rate & Breastfeeding with Ulema and Khateebs. Ulema are widely respected and are looked by a majority of people for guidance on religious issues, including those that relate to their health, lifestyle and wellbeing.

Through a wide network of mosques and madarras, Ulema are endowed with a powerful platform for disseminating and promoting positive behaviours related to breastfeeding and family planning. Considering the importance of Ulema as agents of change, Multi Sectoral Nutrition Center (MSNC), P&D Board, in collaboration with Population Welfare Department, Auqaf & Religious Affairs Department, and UNFPA organized a “Dialogue on the importance of Breastfeeding, Family Planning and High Population Growth with Ulema and Khateeb” at Faletti’s Hotel, Lahore.

The event included participation of all key stakeholders, prominent religious scholars, Ulema Ikram, Khateebs, government departments, and development partners, amongst them were esteemed representatives including Pir Syed Saeed ul Hassan, Minister for Auqaf & Religious Affairs GoPb, Dr. Sohail Saqlain, Member Health Nutrition and Population / Executive Director MSNC, P&D Board, Mr. Ali Bahadur Qazi Secretary Population Welfare Department, Dr. Rubina Suhail Professor of Gynae & Obs Services Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr. Tayyaba Waseem Professor of Gynae & Obs, Services Institute of Medical Sciences, Moulana Abdul Khabir Azad Khateeb Badshahi Masjid, Moulana Muhamman Ramzan Sialvi representation from development partners including UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, SUN, NI, as well as NGOs etc.

Addressing the occasion, Pir Syed Saeed ul Hassan, Minister for Auqaf & Religious Affairs, Government of the Punjab, said, “Multifactorial determinants of breastfeeding require supportive measures at various levels in various departments. Breastfeeding is not the sole responsibility of the mother, it is a collective responsibility of the family, society and government to provide opportunities and environment to breastfeeding mothers. Malnutrition and promotion of breastfeeding remains a top priority agenda of the current Government. I believe that Ulema could play a pivotal role in guiding the communities on population planning and breast feeding. With the help of Ulema, we could fight the age-old prejudices against planned families.

He applauded the leadership and commitment of the Planning and Development Board and compliment the efforts of Chairman P&D Board, Mr. Hamed Yaqoob Sheikh, and Dr. Sohail Saqlain, Executive Director MSNC who have worked diligently on prioritizing the agenda of population and nutrition; a vision that is in line with the agenda of Prime Minister of Pakistan & Chief Minister of Punjab. He said, MSNC will lead the path the Department needs to take – through a multi-sectoral approach and the international best practices”. Dr. Sohail Saqlain, Member HNP,

Executive Director MSNC, P&D Board said Ulema play a crucial role in forming a public opinion on any topic therefore they being requested to sensitise the masses in their sermons about the importance of breastfeeding and family spacing. He acknowledged the efforts of Multi Sectoral Nutrition Center (MSNC) in providing the platform in which multiple stakeholders such as Ulema, relevant Government Departments and International Development partners came under one roof to discuss the public health and religious constraints and opportunities for increase breastfeeding prevalence and population control. He said, there is a dire need to aware individuals, families, communities, healthcare givers, policy makers and general public on the importance of Breastfeeding and its critical linkage in natural way of controlling over population.

He paid tribute to the Chairman P&D Board, Mr. Hamed Yaqoob Sheikh, and Secretary P&D Board, Mr. Imran Sikander Baloch who helped and supported the programmatic transformation and setting the new road map and correct strategic directions for MSNC.

In his speech, Mr. Ali Bahadur Qazi, Secretary Population Welfare Department stated that population control doesn’t fall under the sole jurisdiction of Population Welfare Department, rather it is multifaceted issue thus requires a multi sectoral approach to addressing. He thanked Chairman and Secretary Planning & Development Board in incorporating population as a sector in MSNC and involving multiple relevant stakeholders in addressing the challenges to slow down the high population growth of the province.

Dr. Rubina Suhail Professor of Gynae & Obs Services Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr. Tayyaba Waseem Professor of Gynae & Obs, Services Institute of Medical Sciences, Moulana Abdul Khabir Azad Khateeb Badshahi Masjid & Moulana Muhamman Ramzan Sialvi also gave their comments and suggestions to the participants in very meaningful and constructive way.

Dr. Muhammad Nasir, Consultant SUN Secretariat Punjab & Mr. Shoaib Shehzad, representative of UNFPA gave a brief presentation on the importance of Family Planning, Breastfeeding, High Population growth rate in Punjab and CCI recommendations on controlling over population. The dialogue ended with a vote of thanks to the participants and shields were distributed to the chief guests and guest of honours.