Pakistan's Rural Communities Fight Against COVID-19

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Balanced Energy Proteins (BEP) Rural Market Test

RSPN’s BEP Rural Market Test is a two-year project funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by NRSP, SRSO, Ogilvy, BoPInc and Mathematics. The project is being implemented in two districts, Bhawalpur and Kambar Shahdadkot.

The purpose of the project is to increase availability of nutritious, high-protein supplements to Pakistan’s poorest populations, targeting pregnant and lactating women, to improve their nutritional status and subsequently reducing stunting amongst children.

Pakistan has a high burden of poor nutrition among Pregnant and Lactating Women (PLW) that is resulting in high levels of stunting and other sub-optimal birth outcomes. The Gates Foundation team has analysed and developed a strategy to establish, build and grow a market for maternal nutrition through the commercialisation of a nutritious, fortified food supplement for PLWs: a first step in making such products accessible, affordable, and acceptable.

The rural market test seeks to test potential uptake and consumption frequency of Wellma (the nutrition supplement), as well as its impact on the nutritional status of PLWs, when sold via private channels at a subsidised price, with a minimum recommended price (MRP) of PKE 30 per sachet (based on estimated willingness to pay in rural areas). This would ultimately be with a view to determine the cost-effectiveness of such an approach vs. a fully subsidised strategy.

 The rural market test would run for two years in two districts – Bahawalpur, in Punjab through our implementing partner NRSP, and Kambar Shahdadkot, in Sindh through SRSO. These districts were selected based on their demographic make-up; RSPN’s existing community level presence in form of community networks; synergies with other programs; and ensuring significant distance between rural and urban market test sites, to limit potential leakage and cannibalisation given the difference in MRP. The rural market test will cater to a total population of around 300,000 people (150,000 people per district, roughly 10% of the total district rural population), of which around 11,000 would be PLWs (at any given time) in non-LHW covered clusters.

For the pilot phase, 50 Community Resource Persons (CRPs) (25 in Bahalwapur and 25 in Kamber Shahdadkot) have been engaged in the project. They are tasked with carrying out the registration of MWRAs and PLWs; conducting group meetings to raise awareness regarding the product along with debunking myths and misconceptions attached with nutritional products for PLWs. They are also responsible for conducting household visits to sell Wellma. 

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