Thursday, April 15, 2010

Documentary Script for PPAF Milk Project by Amer Rizwan copyrigts @ Amer Rizwan

Documentary Script for PPAF Milk Project by Amer Rizwan copyrigts @ Amer Rizwan

Poverty is a condition characterized by deprivation of basic human needs including food, drinking water, health, shelter and education. It compels the less gifted members of a society to lead substandard, and in some cases subhuman life and has thereby debilitating effects on people's lives. Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) is the lead institution for poverty-focused interventions in Pakistan. It strives to bring about a more harmonious and cohesive social order based on the time-honored principles of human dignity and equality of opportunity. PPAF endeavours to achieve its target goals through wholesaling funds and civil society organizations for provision of financial and non-financial services at the grassroots throughout the country.

All PPAF developmental initiatives are conceived and conceptualized within a community-led, demand-driven framework. Set up as a fully autonomous private sector institution under section 42 of the Companies Act of 1982, PPAF enjoys facilitation and support from the Government of Pakistan, the World Bank and international donors.

PPAF is cognizant of the fact that children are the future of any nation and working for their health, welfare and well-being is one of the cornerstones of any national strategy. Milk being the most nutritious food staple must be accessible to children at affordable price. In children, in particular, the quantum of milk in-take is directly proportional to their proper mental and physical growth, and strong muscles. However most of the people living in the developing South, including Pakistan, are unable to take the sufficient in-take of this very essential ingredient of human food. The resulting malnutrition takes a toll on the performance and output of the children in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), being mindful of the situation, envisioned a novel idea of linking the school dropouts among the children to the phenomenon of malnutrition in Pakistan. It has already launched, in collaboration with Tetra Pak, National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) and other Partner Organizations, a project to develop and implement a school milk program. The primary focus of the program is to make available milk to school children in rural and peri-urban areas of the country either free-of-cost or at subsidized rates.

As a precursor to the full-scale program, PPAF launched a Rs. 22 million pilot project of School Milk Program under which schoolchildren were provided milk on daily basis in 50 schools in District Rahim Yar Khan. The basic objective is to feed milk to primary schoolchildren in Union Council Rasoolpur, Sadiqabad, District Rahim Yar Khan having a total enrolment of over 5,000 students. The six-month pilot project was launched in the first week of 2010 by PPAF in collaboration with National Rural Support Programme (NRSP). School Milk Program aims at encouraging the school going children and helps in raising their health and education standards.

Sheikh Zayed Medical College Rahim Yar Khan has been mobilized to manage a baseline study from the community health unit. With proper parental consent, the subject students were subjected to a medical examination courtesy Agha Khan hospital that included blood test, weight, height, BMI and physical and eye examination. The sample schools were one of the least equipped in terms of buildings, furniture, teachers and teaching aides. They were the ones which had little or none facilities at all. Ranging from the very structure of the school buildings to the worn furniture and inadequacy of the school staff, almost everything spoke volumes as to the low attendance and high dropouts in these schools. On the top of it, the students were rather physically weak suffering from skin and other diseases owing to the lack of calcium in their diet, and malnutrition which had an invariable bearing on their mental output. All these factors came together to paint a very grim picture of the situation. To begin with, PPAF joined hands with its other partner organizations, including NRSP to provide younger, more ambitious and energetic teachers to these schools. The new teachers worked very assiduously along with the regular teaching staff. All these organizations also made concerted efforts to repair and renovate the school buildings in order to make them an attractive place for the students to visit. Their collective effort did wonders.

Funds for the school milk program have been provided by PPAF from its own resources. Partner Organizations are required to ensure greater participation and motivation on the part of the targeted communities. This also includes the correct handling of milk cartons and the registration of all necessary data and information associated with the program. Besides, PPAF encourages its partner organizations to incorporate a community monitoring component into this methodology.

As part of this methodology, a pre-testing of the various flavours of milk to be distributed was carried out as part of community sensitization. 220 ml of flavoured milk in Tetra Brik Ascetic packaging was being distributed every school day in the targeted area. The particular flavour of the milk to be taken was left to the individual student.

Jamaldin Wali Sugar Mills is one of the local partners in the noble venture, not only by donating its warehouse space for the programme, but also by providing its vehicles for the carriage of milk to the target schools. The dairy supplier i.e. Tetra Pack managed the supply on a two-monthly basis to the warehouse, and school distribution was managed by the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) courtesy the transportation facilities made available by Jamaldin Wali Sugar Mills.

To ensure transparency and efficacy of the project, a proper record of the whole exercise both at the warehouse as well as at the school level was properly maintained by the monitoring staff.

Schools and partner organizations were responsible for the care and handling, oversight, registration and distribution of cartons, consumption of the milk and the collection & recycling of empty milk packs. PPAF ensured that each targeted school appoints a ‘School Focal Person’ who was to oversee the effective implementation of the Milk programme at the respective school’s end. Besides, Joint Monitoring Committees comprising of representatives of PPAF, partner organizations, Corporate Sector and beneficiary schools, were established to oversee the effective implementation of the project.

The activity was repeated at the end of the pilot project with the sample of the same students to determine the impact of the activity and the results show a stunning success. The successful implementation of the project ensued various health and nutrition-related benefits for the school children, nay for the entire society. Not only the students performed well thanks to their improved health, but also the attendance rates increased tremendously; dropouts were brought to zero. Owing to the commitment of the PPAF and the partner organizations and the motivation inspired in them by the new teachers, even students from the neighbouring schools started migrating to the sample schools situated in the Union Council Rasoolpur. IQ level of students witnessed an observable improvement.

Establishment of Counseling Committees comprising of the members from the community and those from the partner organizations was yet another great leap forward. Whereas PPAF and Partner Organizations provided the necessary supply and funding necessary for carrying out the project, the Local Counseling Committee made demands to that effect. On the whole both community and the service providers had to go hand in hand to make the project a great success. During the sessions of the community, the local people would apprise the partner organizations about their requirements and inputs about the effects of the project. Setting up of these counseling committees would go a long way, not only in effecting a sense of ownership among the community members, but also enabling PPAF and its partner organizations to implement the project more scientifically and effectively.

A noble drive indeed – but to ensure the sustainability of the program and effect a greater responsibility and accountability among the parents, they are to be convinced to make a token contribution for the purchase of milk for their children down the road.

The planned full scale milk programme is a gigantic task ahead for PPAF. However, it is determined to be equal to the task. It had planned to work restlessly for generating financial support from world charities, corporate sector and the government. Tetra Pak would continue providing special assistance in the implementation of this project. The execution of this program will go a long way in making Pakistani nation, healthier, wealthier and stronger, giving it resilience to face the challenges unleashed by the modern age with a new resolve and greater strength.

copyrigts @ Amer Rizwan

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