Wednesday, November 30, 2016

SSUET to raise boxing team

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Besides some other sports, the Sir Syed University of Engineering & Technology (SSUET), Karachi, is now raising its boxing team.

According to the SSUET Director Sports, Mubbashir Mukhtar, the work has started on preparing the university's boxing team of eight to 10 members. 

So far, he said, 35 students got themselves registered for induction in the team. 

Mubbashir Mukhtar said that the trials for selection of team members have been conducted and required number of team members selected. 

He added that these selectees will undergo training for which a 10-day training camp, planned to be organized at some reputed martial art club in the city. 

The trials were conducted under the supervision of boxing coach Nasir Khaleeq and witnessed by the SSUET Registrar, Syed Sarfraz Ali. 

The university already has teams in cricket, hockey, football, volleyball, basketball, swimming, judo, taekawndo, table tennis, badminton and bodybuilding.

US-based scientist honoured at SSUET

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Shaheer Khan, the US-based Muslim scientist and a senior Aligarhian, currently on a short visit to Pakistan, was the chief guest at a luncheon hosted by Prof Dr Jawaid H Rizvi, Vice-Chancellor Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET).

A senior staff scientist at Applied Biosystems (Thermo Fisher Scientific), San Francisco Bay Area Biotechnology, Shaheer Khan is an accomplished multidisciplinary scientist with 20 plus years of research and product development experience in Biotech Company. 

He has demonstrated strong synthetic and analytical chemistry background for discovery and development of new products in a multidisciplinary team environment and has an extensive background in organic chemistry with an emphasis on nucleosides/nucleotides and oligonucleotide. 

During an interaction with the luncheon participants Shaheer Khan praised the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA) for its efforts for the establishment of an engineering university after the name of great reformer and educationist Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. 

He praised the SSUET founders late Zakir Ali Khan and Z A Nizami who, he observed, steered the AMUOBA towards achievements of cherished objectives in the field of education, particularly engineering. 

Shaheer Khan spoke about the AMUOBA like associations elsewhere in the world and expressing his desire to establish associations on the pattern of the Association at Aligarh University and called upon the SSUET's passed out graduates and now living abroad to contact him for the very purpose. 

He informed that the preparations have started to celebrate the 200th birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan on October 17, 2017. 

As regards his association in US, he said that its functions are attended by people belonging to all religion as they don't allow any political and religious discussions from its forum. 

In his remarks on the occasion the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dr Jawaid H. Rizvi welcomed Shaheer Khan to the SSUET describing him as a proud Aligarhian rendering most important services in the field of science and technology in the US.

He disclosed that during his meeting with him he discussed with him important matter like visiting fellowship, research collaboration, student guidance, post-graduation programme with faculty. 

The luncheon was attended, among others, by senior Aligarhians, Vice-President AMUOBA, Anwar Ali, General Secretary Arshad Khan, Dean, Associate Dean, Chairpersons of various departments and senior faculty members besides Registrar Syed Sarfraz Ali. 

Later the visiting scientist, accompanied by Anwar Ali and Arshad Khan visited the under-construction Sir Syed Tower at M.R. Kiyani Road opposite Arts Council of Pakistan. He praised the AMUOBA for its outstanding projects and said these projects would contribute greatly towards national development as a follow up of the mission of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.

Monday, November 28, 2016

LUMS students learn about Railways operations

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A six-member group of students of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) visited the headquarters of the Pakistan Railways in Lahore to acquaint themselves with the infrastructure, operation and working of the railway system.

The group consisting of four girls and two boys, called on the Chief Personnel Officer, Shoaib Adil, at his office and had an in depth interaction with him about the railway affairs. 

The CPO briefed the visitors about the railway working in greater details and specially the efforts being made by the Railways Minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique, for the railway's turn around to make it Pakistan's prestigious organization. 

He explained to the students the railway's soaring revenue income, the addition of new locomotives and carriages and the working of different cadres of the railway staff besides other things. 

The LUMS students pitched a volley of searing questions especially about the steps taken for increasing the railway's revenues, the hiring system for the employees, the train operations, the safety and security measures for passengers. 

Shoaib Adil informed that since the present leadership took over, the efficiency of the railway staff has went up manifold which brought amazing changes in the organization leading to achievement of remarkable results. 

He said as of today any hiring is made on total merit and more focus is paid on their training particularly with regard to provision of travelling facilities, safety and security of travelers and related aspects.

Karachi Railways Division makes steep revenue gains

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Pakistan Railways has made great strides in its revenue earnings with Karachi railway division alone having achieved amazing targets with total revenue earnings rising from Rs 4172.468 million in 2011-12 to Rs 15,615.820 million in 2015-16.

The statistics showed that railways’ revenue earnings stood at Rs 2326.312 million in 1988-89 and soared to Rs 4726.668 million in 2012-13 but shot up to Rs 15,615.820 million in just 2 years 2014-16. 

"The earnings of the division stood at Rs 12,158 million in 2014-15 as against the target of Rs 9304.276 million and went up to Rs 15,615.820 million as against the target of Rs 12,732 million in 2015-16,”Engr Nisar Memon, the Divisional Superintendent Railways Karachi Division, informed in an interview. 

Giving head wise earning position, he revealed that from July 2016 to October 2016, the railway's passenger earnings touched a record Rs 2126.150 million as against the target of 1978.068 million and on the goods side it stood at Rs 3161.55 million as against the target of Rs 2941.462 million. 

According to him, the passenger earnings of Karachi Division stood at Rs 575.817 million in 1988-89 which entered into four figure when for the first time railway earned Rs 1064.570 million in 1995-96 and shot up to Rs 3102.947 million in 2012-13 after the present regime came into power registering a steep rise to Rs 4081.624 million in 2014-15 and a record Rs 5779.633 in 2015-16.

On the freight side, Nisar Memon stated that the earnings stood at Rs 1,610 .906 million in 1988-89 which soared to Rs 6391.714 million in 2013-14 and rose to a record Rs 9151.506 million in 2015-16 thus carrying the total earnings from both passenger and freight sides to Rs 15,615.820 million. 

He observed that these targets were achieved primarily because of the leadership provided by the Federal Railways Minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique who has made tremendous efforts to eradicate corruption from the organization which in the past badly devoured its resources. 

He remarked that the minister's appreciation of their performance had provided them a boost to their efforts to make Karachi Division the highest revenue earning Division of Pakistan. 

The minister, he said, has directed that the facilities being provided to traveling passengers be further improved and Karachi Railway Division is working on various projects in this regard. 

As a result of the efforts made the trains’ punctuality rate has increased to over 80 percent for Down trains and almost 100 percent for upcountry trains.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sindh CM highlights importance of a broad-based, multidisciplinary education

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his address to Aga Khan University’s 29th convocation, highlighted the importance of a broad-based, multidisciplinary education in tackling the country’s problems.

“We need natural scientists and social scientists, writers and artists, entrepreneurs and public policy experts who can work across boundaries of all kind in order to start and lead progress in wide range of fields,” he observed while speaking to the university’s 383 graduands. 

While praising the AKU’s plans to invest in a new Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) in Karachi, he spoke of the social contribution that a liberal arts education can make. 

“The FAS will fill a deep need within Pakistan for universities that create leaders who possess the critical thinking, creativity and problem solving skills, an inquiring mind, breadth of knowledge and respect for all people needed to tackle the most complex challenges the country face. This is the mission of the FAS and the government of Sindh encourages the AKU to make this a reality,” he declared. 

The Chief Minister, who is himself a qualified civil engineer, also spoke of the ‘unyielding power of their education to impact humanity and urged graduands to use their skills to address the many issues in Pakistani society. “Be conscious of that power and use it to give the best to humanity,” he added. 

Firoz Rasul, President, AKU, in his welcome address spoke about how we, as human beings, seek a higher purpose, a challenge that brings meaning to our lives, and that leaves a mark on the lives of others. He mentioned that one great challenge is the Sustainable Development Goals that 193 countries, including Pakistan, have committed to by 2030.

“If Pakistan were to meet them, it would be a country transformed,a place where no child suffers from hunger, every boy and girl is taught by well-qualified teachers, and all people have access to high-quality healthcare. At AKU, we are working to make that vision a reality, as an educator of leaders, a source of research that generates solutions to critical challenges and a provider of life-saving health care,” he stated. 

He went on to say how students can use the knowledge and skills they have developed at AKU to make an extraordinary difference, to “work on behalf of a great cause, to seek to do what has never been done is an experience as thrilling and inspiring as any you will ever know.” 

“There is no greater reward than the knowledge that your efforts have deeply and positively impacted the lives of a great many people. The chance to experience that knowledge for yourself is an opportunity indeed one I urge you not to miss,” the AKU President reckoned. 

The School of Nursing and Midwifery, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, saw 176 nurses graduate, 163 with undergraduate and 13 with graduate degrees. After today’s convocation, the School has almost 4,000 diploma and degree graduates in Pakistan. 

The Medical College awarded 1 PhD in the health sciences, 34 master’s, 95 undergraduate degrees and 19 advanced diplomas (16 in human development, 3 in health professions education) as well as 10 diplomas in dental hygiene. In education, 1 PhD and 37 Master of Education degrees were conferred and 10 Master of Arts in Muslim Cultures to students from the University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. 

In his valedictorian speech, Sheraz Hussain, an MBBS graduate, said: “AKU’s student body is like a multicultural family. Everyone knows everyone else. We find strength in our diversity. There is one thing I would urge all my fellow graduates to do, once you’re ‘established’ do come back to serve the people who need you. I will end with three golden words, which have been my guiding principle since high school: Perseverance commands success!” 

Aziza Jaffer Ali received the 2016 Best Graduate Award from the School of Nursing and Midwifery. She was also presented with the Nursing Practice Award given to the student as the clinical and community practice reflects a client-centered approach, distinctive critical thinking, problem solving abilities and ethical decision making. 

The Medical College’s 2016 Best Graduate Award was presented to Dr Saneeha Shahid, for the highest aggregate score in the certifying examinations through the five-year MBBS degree programme.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

AKUH gets advanced laser technology for vision-correcting surgeries

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Karachi, has launched an advanced refractive surgery suite equipped with the latest laser technology for vision-correcting surgeries. The suite will enable eye specialists at the Hospital to customise treatment to each patient’s needs with improved performance in terms of precision, safety, comfort and recovery.

“A refractive surgery is a procedure that corrects common vision problems to reduce or stop a person’s dependence on eyeglasses or contact lenses,” Dr Irfan Jeeva, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Service Line Chief of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, AKUH, observed at the inauguration of the facility. 

He described the most common vision problems as nearsightedness or myopia where distant images seem blurry, farsightedness or hyperopia where near images seem blurry, and astigmatism where close-up as well as distant images seem blurry. 

There are several types of refractive surgery and only a qualified eye specialist can advise what is suitable after evaluating and briefing a patient on advantages and anticipated side effects, if any. A laser procedure called LASIK is the most popular refractive surgery to correct refractive errors caused by irregularities in the shape of the cornea. 

“The first thing we check is the evaluation if a person is a good candidate for LASIK. Then we provide a consultation to help patients fully understand what improvements they can expect based on age, vision and lifestyle requirements. Patients who are not suitable candidates for LASIK would then be offered alternative solutions,” Dr Jeeva said. 

Dr Sharmeen Akram, Assistant Professor and Section Head of Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery, AKU, explained that all vision-correcting laser surgeries worked by reshaping the cornea, improving the eye’s ability to focus. 

“The laser portion of the treatment takes less than a minute and does not cause any pain. A person will usually be able to see well enough to drive on the day after the procedure,” he noted. 

“We at AKUH continuously seek innovative solutions that can solve local healthcare problems and also keep our institution current with advances in the industry. The new Refractive Laser Suite can help patients achieve the best vision,” Hans Kedzierski, CEO, AKUH, reckoned. 

“On top of that I would like to mention that our ophthalmologists will use protocols as per the best international practices. Training has been done accordingly and the protocols will be available on the Hospital website to support our patients,” he added. 

The AKU President, Firoz Rasul, thanked Bashir Dawood for generously gifting the suite. The facility was inaugurated by AKU President along with the donor, CEO Hans Kedzierski and ophthalmology faculty Drs Irfan Jeeva, Sharmeen Akram, Tanveer Chaudhry, Burq Maqsood and others. 

Ophthalmology or eye services at AKUH include assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a range of vision and eye conditions in both adults and children.

Prof Zulfiqar Bhutta wins 2016 TWAS award

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Professor Zulfiqar A Bhutta has been honoured with The World Academy of Sciences 2016 TWAS Prize in medical sciences, in recognition of his “incisive work on academic paediatrics and public health in Pakistan, which has contributed to shape global child health and policy”.

TWAS Prizes are in nine fields and this year 10 winners were announced at the Academy's 27th General Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda. 

So far only three prizes have been given to Pakistani scientists, one each in agriculture and biological sciences previously, since its inception in 1983. 

Each year, TWAS awards prizes worth US$15,000 each to individual scientists from developing countries in recognition of their outstanding contributions to scientific knowledge, and to the application of science and technology to sustainable development. 

The award is given to those who have been working and living in a developing country for at least 10 years. The prizes are given in nine fields ranging from agricultural sciences, biology, chemistry, earth sciences, engineering sciences, mathematics, physics, social sciences to medical sciences. 

This year there were 10 prize winners: two each from Brazil, China and India; and one each from Chile, Mexico, Turkey and Pakistan. The winners will present a lecture on their research at TWAS’s 28th General Meeting in 2017, when they will also receive a plaque and the prize money. Prof Zulfiqar Bhutta’s nomination was made by the Pakistan Academy of Sciences. 

“I am deeply conscious of the fact that my contributions have largely been possible because of the phenomenal team of young people that I work with, and the opportunity for scholarship and research that my peers and mentors provided me,” the award-winning professor remarked. 

He has had a 30-year long academic career at the University and the global impact of his work has seen him take up prominent positions at leading universities in Canada, the UK and the United States. 

An expert on nutrition, newborn and child survival, and micronutrient deficiencies, Prof Zulfiqar Bhutta is one of the most cited health sciences scholars from the developing world. 

He has published 8 books, 88 book chapters, and over 725 indexed publications to date, including 145 in the world’s leading journal The Lancet alone. At the launch of the new Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health in September last year, he had represented AKU which has pledged to invest more than US$85 million over the next decade in support of the Global Strategy. 

In December 2015, he was presented with the prestigious Turkish award, the 2015 International TÜBA Academy Prize, in health and life sciences. 

The President of Pakistan has also conferred the Pride of Performance Award on Prof Zulfiqar Bhutta, in recognition of his major contributions in the field of healthcare education.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

AKU-EB recognizes High Achievers of 2016

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A total of 162 top students from all over the country were recognized for their outstanding performance in the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) examinations, held by the Aga Khan University Examination Board, at their high achievers award ceremony in Karachi on November 15.

A large number of parents, school principals and teachers were present at the ceremony to appreciate and encourage the high achievers. 

"We are proud of our AKU-EB graduates, many of whom have successfully obtained admissions to renowned national and international universities. It is heartening to see the impact that the Examination Board is having on our society by being a model of excellence and innovation in education for Pakistan,” Firoz Rasul, President AKU, remarked. 

Girls topped the SSC examinations with the overall first position awarded to Alina Fatima from Al-Murtaza School, Karachi and Hira Naz from Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Kuragh, Chitral. In second position was Ruhaina Nadeem from Nasra School, Karachi and the third position was awarded to Shehla Tanveer from Maryam Siddiqa Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Chiniot and Maryam Ihsan from Nusrat Jehan Academy Girls High School, Chiniot, Punjab.

Hira Naz, one of the award winners, said: “An AKU-EB candidate has enough opportunities to demonstrate creativity through innovative ways of learning. I learned how to apply my learnings in daily life which made me confident about the knowledge I have. The high level of accuracy and transparency in AKU-EB is also a great source of confidence and motivation for candidates.” 

Among the HSSC candidates, Areej Al Medinah from Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Karimabad, Karachi, secured the overall first position, while Areeba M. Amin from Habib Girls School, Karachi stood second. Fatima M Asad Khan also from Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Karimabad, Karachi, secured the overall third position.

“With AKU-EB's application, understanding and knowledge scheme discouraging the rote system, we have successfully been instilled with the ability to comprehend and tackle real life problems and issues,” Areej Al Medinah observed while receiving her award. 

The winners of the AKU-EB Bridge Scholarship were also announced at the ceremony. The merit cum need-based scholarship, generously funded by the Fancy Foundation, is offered to AKU-EB SSC graduates and funds two years of HSSC education at an AKU-EB affiliated school or college in Karachi. 

“With more than 10 years of experience, AKU-EB has produced over 30,000 graduates and today these high achievers have also joined the parade by demonstrating with their excellent performance that they are future leaders and policy makers,” the chief guest, Jameel Yusuf,. Chairman, TPL Holdings and President of the ‘I am Karachi’ initiative, stated. 

“AKU-EB students demonstrate the ability to use critical thinking and problem solving skills to understand ideas and bring them to reality,” he added. 

“At AKU-EB we continue to strive and maintain consistency to attain international benchmarks. We must stay engaged on our essential role to inspire and develop versatile individuals who are responsible, articulate, who can think for themselves, form their own opinions and are empowered to take their place in leadership roles,” Dr Shehzad Jeeva, Director, AKU-EB, reckoned while presenting the vote of thanks.

The Hub School: Fulfillment of a cherished dream

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Hub School, a not-for-profit boys’ boarding school of excellence, has started its operations with 50 students thus making a cherished dream of the Ahmed E H Jaffer Foundation a reality.

Its inaugural batch of 50 students from all over the country has set the ball rolling as The Hub School, situated on the outskirts of Karachi in the vicinity of Northern Bypass near Sindh-Balochistan border, aims to forge a national identity and consciousness by fostering close links and cooperation amongst all students as Pakistanis. 

"It will not only create a middle-class for future good leadership and good governance in all fields but will also produce young boys with character, discipline and integrity for a better world and a better and more prosperous Pakistan,” Abdul Kader Jaffer, the present President of Ahmed E. Jaffer Foundation and a former Pakistan's High Commissioner to UK, stated in an exclusive interview. 

"Education is a Jaffer Family legacy to Pakistan. The Islamia School in Pune was founded in 1907 by Ahmed E H Jaffer’s great grand Father Khan Bahadur Haroon Jaffer,” he recalled and explained that his grandfather Sir Ebrahim Haroon Jaffer organized the first Muslim Educational Conference in 1920. His late-father Ahmed E.H. Jaffer introduced reforms as a member of the Indian Legislative Assembly in 1940 and later after partition in the Pakistan Legislative Assembly he raised several bills and motions for improvement and increase in the allocation for education.

“By the Grace of Almighty Allah, The Hub School has become operational and the classes have commenced. We have begun our journey with special prayers for the prosperity of the country, school and for the wellbeing of our respected donors,” Abdul Kader Jaffer, President of The Hub School, said. 

He informed that after return from UK on completion of his assignment as Pakistan High Commissioner from 2000 to 2003, he had been working on this most challenging task of setting up a boarding school initially for 135 boys to be gradually increased to 800 boys in the next 5 years, followed by a boarding school for girls and finally a University of national stature on 240 acre of land donated by the family besides Rs 50 million in cash. 

According to him a dormatory for 135 boys is in use while another dormatory for 135 girls will be ready by next year to start boarding school for girls which will start from next academic calendar in August 2017. 

“The Hub School is the first boarding school in this area which will provide quality education to all on merit. We believe providing quality education to our youngsters is the only viable alternative to curb extremism and to produce leadership in all fields from young men and women who are broad-minded and enlightened,” Abdul Kader Jaffer, who founded the Ahmed E H Jaffer Foundation in 1996, observed.

“It is our mission to provide quality education to our younger generation at the Hub School as per the high standard available in USA and UK. I am sure we will be able to achieve these objectives with the kind and generous support of all our friends, relations and well-wishers both in Pakistan and abroad,” he hoped. 

“The objective of the Ahmed E H Jaffer Foundation is to work mostly but not limited to in the fields of education, healthcare and sports and for this purpose raised a fund of over Rs 800 million from generous donors in Pakistan and abroad,” he shared. 

He remarked that the institution has a Board of Governors comprising of quite a few eminent personalities like Aitzaz Shahbaz, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Lt Gen Tanwir Hussain Naqvi, Ghazala Nizami, Ismail Zakaria, Mian Mukhtar Ahmed, Aliuddin Ahmed, Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, Dr Masuma Hasan, Professor Haroon Rasheed and Professor Mohammad Rais Alvi. 

He revealed that the Board planned to meet on November 21 in which some important matters concerning The Hub School will be discussed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

SSUET management meeting the challenge

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Ever since the present management led by Chancellor Jawaid Anwar, who is also the President of Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA) has taken over its leadership, the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) has taken, on a positive note, many issues as a challenge. 

To begin with, according to the progress report 2016-17, issued by AMUOBA, a strategic plan with corrective measures to address the challenges was delivered on stringent timelines. The salient features of the plan included the establishment of Quality Enhancement Cell, establishment of the office of Research, Innovation and Commercialization (ORIC) with a monetary grant from the European Union, revamping of Center of Guidance Counseling and Career Planning/Placement (CGCCPP), establishment of postgraduate studies Directorate, signing of MoUs at national and international levels, HEC and Foreign Funded projects. 

The most important challenge was to ensure a transparent admission policy with transparent admission tests and timely results. 

Keeping in view the last year's experience, where the issuance of merit list was delayed for two months as the admission test date was September 20, 2015 while the result date was November 20, 2015. 

"We have tried our level best to overcome this issue and hence the result of aptitude test was declared on time", the report said. 

Determined efforts have been made to ensure transparency at all levels, says Chancellor Jawaid Anwar as per progress report. 

According to him, over the past year, since he took over, the mentioned efforts have already reflected on different forums as the Charter Inspection and Evaluation Committee (CIEC), Government of Sindh, Steering Committee raising the university's rank to Number One Private Engineering University of Sindh. 

Another feat achieved was bringing the Campus on Cloud envisaging a campus management with system rich functionality in a highly secure solution with a stunning user interface, covering the complete student lifecycle, CoC automates the admissions, Academics and Finance operations across the campus, departments and Programs of the Aligarh Institute of Technology (AIT) was being deployed at the university. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Threat of a malnourished, underachieving generation of Pakistanis calls for simple accelerated actions

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Malnutrition has a lifelong effect on Pakistan’s children and adults and severe consequences for the economy, experts opined at the launch of the Global Nutrition Report 2016 and in the subsequent discussion on policy responses to the country’s nutrition crisis.

The seminar on Towards Sustainable Nutrition in Pakistan: Unlocking Barriers focused on identifying multi-sectoral interventions that could help reduce malnutrition and nurture future generations. 

The speakers called for simple accelerated actions to improve the quality of life and to meet commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Goals 2 and 3 on ending hunger, and ensuring healthy lives and well being for all ages. 

“Inadequate access to nutrition in the first few years of a child’s life results in irreversible neurological and physical effects, diminished mental ability and learning capacity, increased vulnerability to deadly diseases as well as lower work productivity and earning capacity as adults,” Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, Aga Khan University’s Founding Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health and a member of the Independent Expert Group which produced the Global Nutrition Report 2016, observed. 

“Worse, girls, who are malnourished in their early years, are more likely to give birth to underweight children meaning that these health problems have a multi-generational impact. This is why stakeholders need to focus on early, high-impact interventions and preventive strategies,” he added. 

The speakers at the event noted that many factors are contributing to Pakistan’s nutrition crisis which calls for a multi-sectoral approach to the problem. 

They noted that reaching these vulnerable people requires interventions that take into account factors such as gender, socioeconomic status and regional inequalities.

“The menu of multi-sectorial interventions is still being debated, yet to be financed and implemented in Pakistan. Lessons are particularly needed in agriculture and livestock, water and sanitation, pulling in the private sector market, single cohesive leadership and specialized technical assistance,” Dr Shehla Zaidi, Director, Graduate Programme for Health Policy and Management, AKU, commented. 

Altaf Bijarani, Secretary, Planning and Development Department, Government of Sindh, used the occasion to express the government’s commitment to root out malnutrition and stunting in the province. Findings from the Global Nutrition Report highlighted that other countries in SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) have a faster stunting reduction rate as compared to Pakistan. 

“Malnutrition is a condition that directly affects one in three people. The economic consequences represent losses of 11 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) every year in Africa and Asia, whereas preventing malnutrition delivers $16 in returns on investment for every $1 spent. The world’s countries have agreed on targets for nutrition, but despite some progress in recent years the world is off track to reach those targets,” the report stated. 

The other speakers, in person and via video links, included Inam ul Haq and Sylvia Kauffman from the World Bank, Charlotte Dufour from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Mahbubur Rehman from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, and Azra Pechuho and Shahnaz Wazir Ali from the Oversight Committee on Primary Health Care and Polio, Government of Sindh. 

The event was organized by the AKU in collaboration with the Planning Commission of Pakistan, the International Food Policy Research Institute and Palladium.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Umeed-e-Nau launches maternal child health project in 14 districts

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aga Khan University and key government officials marked the launch of a major new project aimed at improving maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health in Pakistan. 

Funded by a US$25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Umeed-e-Nau (new hope) is a five-year project that will see AKU work with public sector programmes and primary care providers such as Lady Health Workers and Community Health Midwives to deliver proven interventions and improve the quality of care at health facilities in 14 mainly rural districts in Balochistan, Southern Punjab and Sindh, as well as urban slums in Karachi. 

The districts include Badin, Dadu, Hyderabad, Matiari, Karachi, Jafferabad, Jamshoro, Lasbela, Mirpur Khas, Muzaffargarh, Nasirabad, Qambar Shahdadkot, Rahim Yar Khan, Sanghar and Thatta. 

The project also includes a ground breaking effort to provide health education through schools for adolescent girls in Pakistan. 

“Federal and provincial governments, public and private institutions, civil society and every one of us have to team up to meet the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030,” Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, Founding Director of the Aga Khan University’s Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, remarked. 

“Projects like Umeed-e-Nau can help Pakistan achieve Goal 3 for health, which also requires additional investments in improving nutrition, keeping children in schools and addressing environmental health and gender equity,” he added. 

The project will operate through a new research centre, the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, which will be established through a generous gift of Rs 2 billion from the Hashoo Foundation. Muhammad Ayub Shaikh, Secretary, Ministry of National Health Sciences, Regulations and Coordination, Government of Pakistan, expressed their commitment to join hands with AKU and accelerate progress. 

“Umeed-e-Nau will test a variety of approaches in an effort to develop insights and evidence that can influence policy across the country and beyond its borders. We believe that the project will reduce stillbirths and new born deaths by 20 per cent, as well as deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea by 30 per cent through these strategies,” Professor Bhutta reckoned. 

On the occasion, a message from Dr Christopher Elias, President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was delivered: 

“We are proud to support Pakistan’s efforts to improve the quality and reach of health services to reduce preventable deaths and make progress toward the country’s 2030 development goals.” 

The AKU President Firoz Rasul thanked the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its partnership and support to improve maternal and child health in Pakistan. 

“As part of its activities to support the Sustainable Development Goals, AKU has pledged to invest more than US$85 million over the next decade in support of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, which is designed to help achieve Goal 3 of SDGs,” President Rasul said. 

The ceremony was also attended by AKU donors, members of the Hashoo Foundation, and Dr Muhammad Usman Chachar, Secretary of Health, Government of Sindh.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Civil society leaders share strategies towards more peaceful Pakistan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The experts in the field of medicine, business, the arts, and social policy highlighted a range of strategies to build peace and stability in Pakistan on the final day of the National Health Sciences Research Symposium, the Aga Khan University’s annual event on November 6. 

Neuroscience researchers and clinicians shared insights on how the mind and brain can contribute to, or take away from, individual and social peace while people from the arts and humanities narrated their efforts to introduce positive change in society and the process of overcoming challenges in their private and public lives. 

Creative arts play a vital role in human development, from rehabilitative treatments for post traumatic stress disorder after violent incidents to programmes to treat mental illnesses noted Dr Saad Shafqat, Professor of Neurology at AKU while moderating the session on Art, Music, Literature and the Mind. 

Actor and social worker Nadia Jamil described the performing arts as being one of the most empowering tools for social change. She explained how many societies were able to create powerful narratives that enabled them to unite their people and progress. 

“I wish more Muslim societies picked up the pen rather than the sword in order to change the world around us. Art helps us connect with other people’s experiences and nurtures empathy. It makes us remember what came before us and enables us to spread positive messages for social good,” she added. 

Nigeria-based psychiatrist Olayinka Omigbodun agreed about the idea of art for change. Television and theatre plays can be used to confront long standing traditions and stigmas in society and noted that the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood, is beginning to play an important role in shaping perceptions about mental health. 

Jamal Shah, actor and director, while also talking about art as a vital outlet for society, spoke about how on an individual level each person faced inherent loneliness. Only by embarking on a creative journey can one fill this void and as one becomes self-aware the creativity that results can have an impact on the community and the world around them. 

In another session on Mindfulness, Spirituality and the Human Condition, mental health experts discussed how to heal wounds in society. David Arthur, Dean of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at AKU, spoke of the soothing impact that spirituality can have on the soul. 

Dr Arthur mentioned that techniques such as mindfulness, the practice of making oneself aware of the present instead of being worried about the past and the future, can be very beneficial. 

“Don’t always be in a hurry. Be interested in every interaction and truly live in the moment. When you do this you’ll notice that everything you do is more enriching. We should all focus on experiencing the moment,” he observed. 

Consultant psychiatrist Sarah Eager, from the UK, agreed with Dr Arthur and mentioned the negative influence of stress in society on our individual well being. 

“We should try to return to the silence and peace prior to the stressful moment. People also tend to be very critical of themselves and others which is very harmful to society. Instead we should focus on being compassionate to ourselves and each other,” she remarked. 

In the session on Psychopathology of Violence and Terrorism, Dr Murad Khan, Professor of Psychiatry at AKU and moderator of the session, noted that violent incidents and terrorist attacks in Pakistan has led to many people being exposed to trauma and many families having to cope with the consequences of violence with little recourse to help. 

Social activist Jibran Nasir noted that Pakistani society, over time, has become more violent and intolerant. Conflicts over political ideology, religious doctrine and regional separatism have spilled over into public space with the result that people have become increasingly concerned about their own safety and more indifferent to the plight of others. 

He stressed the importance of speaking out against injustice and of continuing the mission of those who had been silenced by violence. When asked whether everyone should pursue political change through activism, he replied: 

“Be a good citizen first by paying your taxes and by abiding by the law. There is room for everyone to contribute to society but remember that society needs all kinds of people to prosper. Everyone shouldn’t aspire to becoming a political activist but they should do as much as they can to improve what is around them.” 

At the conclusion of the conference, Dr Ayesha Mian, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at AKU said: “We’ve brought together experts from around the world to share their scientific and medical expertise. Sessions throughout the conference have led to new ideas and much excitement about the field of neuroscience which is important not only to every person’s health but has insights that can impact society as a whole.”