14 November 2012
The recent case of the shooting of the schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai exposed the political, economic and cultural challenges that some young Pakistani girls face when trying to get an education.
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) alongside its longstanding partnership with the Abaseen Foundation charity is currently working in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region – where the shooting took place – to tackle various issues including health, malnutrition and education.
For over 10 years UCLan has worked in collaboration with the Lancashire and Pakistani-based charity undertaking research that underpins the charity’s service developments to improve access to good quality and affordable health care, education, and to seek solutions to chronic malnutrition which affect quality of life amongst the population.
“The project aims to employ community engagement to enable sustainable intervention strategies to be devised to improve community health and wellbeing."
Nutritional Science academic at UCLan Dr Nicola Lowe and Helen Bingley, a Founder Trustee of the Abaseen Foundation, have recently returned from Pakistan.
Dr Lowe is leading on research, funded by The Wellcome Trust, exploring the role of the Jirga (a traditional tribal judicial system comprised of male community members) in engaging the community with health and nutrition related research, and in setting a research and development agenda that meets the needs and priorities of the community, especially those of the mothers and children.
She commented: “Following the results found by the National Nutrition Survey Report 2011, showing 48% of the child population in Khyber Paktunkhwa in NW Pakistan had stunted growth as a result of chronic malnutrition it became apparent the extent of the issue.
“The project aims to employ community engagement to enable sustainable intervention strategies to be devised to improve community health and wellbeing. Our proposed approach is unique, in that it seeks to capitalise on a local culturally embedded means of community engagement to introduce research into a community.”
In addition, the projects conducted by the Abaseen Foundation and supported by UCLan aim to integrate health, hygiene and nutrition education within schools and community groups to make an impact on the diet and health of mothers and children.
"It is a privilege for us at UCLan to be continuing our work with the Abaseen Foundation to help illuminate malnutrition and improve infant mortality rate whilst providing education for young people living in some of the poorest communities in the world."
The charity currently supports and operates two primary schools and two health care facilities serving some of the poorest communities in Khyber Pakhtukhwa, including a community that live and work on a Brick Kiln close to Peshawar.
Dr Lowe added: “This project is very close to my heart and it is a privilege for us at UCLan to be continuing our work with the Abaseen Foundation to help illuminate malnutrition and improve infant mortality rate whilst providing education for young people living in some of the poorest communities in the world. Children require the right balance of nutrients in order to concentrate, learn and achieve their full academic potential when attending school.”
Other research projects Dr Lowe has steered on include a European funded project entitled “EURRECA” to encourage the harmonisation of micronutrient recommendations across Europe with special focus on vulnerable groups and consumer understanding.