When Dr. Mohammad Ayub began his work for the Government of Pakistan, he joined a team that was also working to establish itself. “I was placed in the nutrition unit, which was very new at that time,” Dr. Ayub says. “That was inspiring for me, since it was new and I was new.”
Whether conducting informative analyses, exploring needs at the community-level, working with policymakers or identifying new partnerships with businesses, Dr. Ayub’s career in the decades since offers a glimpse into varying elements that together contribute to progress in alleviating malnutrition. He has served as a technical advisor; managed programs in community nutrition, women in development and social welfare; analyzed the potential of the agriculture sector; and worked with both national and sub-national government officials in Pakistan to coordinate nutrition strategies. Now the Senior Chief of Nutrition at the Planning Commission of Pakistan, Dr. Ayub points to his work as part of an international team asked to design a community development plan in the Philippines as a key experience for him. “We implemented the plan and I learned the basics; I learned from the community,” he says. “I was then able at the national level to talk about this micro level, giving me a new focus.”
A common thread through much of Dr. Ayub’s work has been the importance of sharing information in a way that empowers groups to understand and take action. Early in his career with the new nutrition team, Dr. Ayub recognized that Pakistan’s nutrition challenges were often not well-understood by policy and decision-makers. This pushed him to ensure that useful information and analysis were available to those who could put data to work to impact nutrition. Workshops and seminars were held to foster interaction between technical experts, bureaucrats who guide policy and politicians who manage implementation, to help all understand that nutrition remains a national concern. Since then, Dr. Ayub has seen progress, as nutrition is now consistently discussed as part of national policies.
To maximize impact, Dr. Ayub encourages opportunities that maximize capabilities across sectors. In the 1980s, Dr. Ayub pioneered efforts to establish a Universal Salt Iodization target in Pakistan, and later the design of a national wheat flour fortification program. “If you look at wheat flour fortification, we see what we need to do to involve the business people, the technology people; we need to involve the health people who give guidance on levels and how products are mixed,” he says. “But if we put it all on one sector and give responsibility to them, others will sit back and not be involved, and we lose efficiency.”
Dr. Ayub’s leadership has contributed to improved nutrition in Pakistan, and though he notes that it has not always been easy, he sees how all work contributes to progress. “We face a number of challenges, but with every new day, we see that there were successes and failures, and we would see failures as a success for the next day.”