Selected news stories from the international press relating to Asian (In)Fertilities:
Pakistan needs $78 million for provision of birth spacing services: US delegation participates in national consultation - The News International
(19 July 2010)
Pakistan — one of the six countries of the world with the highest maternal mortality rate — requires an investment of $78 million to be able to provide comprehensive birth spacing services
This observation was shared with a high-level US delegation attending a National Consultation on Birth Spacing here on Sunday. The delegation, which is accompanying US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, was led by the administrator of USAID Dr. Rajiv Shah and included besides others Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs and Democracy at the US State Department and Robin Raphael, Political Counsellor at the US Embassy in Islamabad. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Sector, Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali, and Health Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, alongside Secretary Health Khushnood Akhtar Lashari, Director General Health Professor Rashid Jooma and Secretary Population Welfare Shaukat Durrani were present on the occasion. The consultation was organised by the Ministry of Health.
Speaking on the occasion, Shahnaz Wazir Ali said, birth spacing is an efficient and effective strategy for better health of the mother and child. She said the country’s health and population policies are on the anvil; these policies focus on equity and efficient use of resources. She envisaged increased involvement of the civil society and private sector in the area of mother and child health in the coming days. “There is a paradigm shift in provision of healthcare delivery to the people as far as the present government is concerned. We are looking at efficient delivery of primary healthcare services with integration of health and population at the service delivery level,” Shahnaz said.
Makhdoom Shahabuddin said the current state of indicators on mother and child mortality in relation to the Millennium Development Goals, are far from being achieved, thereby necessitating redoubling of efforts. The minister said, the government is committed to improving the lives of womenfolk. In this connection, the social and economic empowerment of women are imperatives that are being achieved through initiatives like the Benazir Income Support Program and the Lady Health Workers and Community Mid-Wife Programmes in the health sector, which ensure provision of healthcare at the doorsteps of women while also providing them jobs.
Terming fertility reduction as the single most potent strategy to reducing maternal mortality, Shahabuddin said, “We see birth spacing as not just an integral part of maternal and newborn care but also as a right of women who want to postpone their next child but are unable to find the means to do so.” He informed the gathering that one-third of birth intervals of women in the country are less than 24 months, which puts the well being of both mother and child at risk.
Dr. Rajiv Shah lauded the initiative of the Ministry of Health towards improving the health of mother and child with a view to bringing about a significant reduction in maternal and child mortality. In this context, he commended the new birth spacing initiative of the Ministry.
It is an established fact that birth spacing services work efficiently to reduce Maternal Mortality Rates and improve maternal health, said Dr. Shah. Pakistan is among the six countries of the world with the highest maternal mortality rates.
Affirming support to the health sector in Pakistan, Dr. Shah said the Obama administration recognises that the key to improving the health status of a country lies in improvement of its health systems.
Earlier in his presentation, Professor Rasheed Jooma said Lady Health Workers are providing 54 percent of contraceptives used in their areas. Shaukat Durrani elaborated the steps being taken by the Ministry of Population Welfare and spelt out the challenges.
Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Representative of the Population Council, made an impressive presentation pleading the case for investment in birth spacing.
She said the fertility rate in Pakistan is higher than in other countries of the region; there are 890,000 induced abortions in the country annually. Investing in birth spacing will take us closer to the Millennium Development Goals as over 100,000 deaths can be averted by suitable birth spacing and large birth intervals can take us close to our target of 40 deaths per 1,000 live births.