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Pakistan – Maternal and neonatal health: The need for family planning

Speakers talk about method for healthy spacing between pregnancies. PHOTO: REUTERS

Speakers talk about method for healthy spacing between pregnancies. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHIMore than 95 per cent of postpartum women do not want another child for at least two years, yet only 40 per cent are practising family planning methods, said speakers at a seminar organised by the National Committee for Maternal and Neonatal Health.

The seminar was held to discuss the condition of maternal, neonatal health and the advantages of Postpartum Intrauterine Contraceptive Device (PPIUCD). PPIUCD is a global initiative and a low-cost intervention that allows healthy spacing between pregnancies and contributes to the reduction of maternal and infant mortality. Speakers said that the method is highly effective and low cost, and does not interfere with breastfeeding.

Speaking about the health of the mother and the child, midwife Imtiaz Kamal said that midwives should be well-trained and capable of playing their role as it is because of them that the health of mother and child can be at stake.

Lawmaker and member of standing committee on health, Mahtab Akbar Rashdi, said the government of Sindh must frame some developed policies on health. “NGOs cannot do what the provincial or federal government can do,” she pointed out, asking the lawmakers to discuss the issues of maternal and child care in the assemblies. Giving an overview of the maternal health scenario in the province, Rashdi said that sometimes it is hard to find gynaecologists even in a city like Karachi. She lamented the lack of facilities for new mothers and children in rural Sindh.

According to her, it is high time that the midwives around the province should be imparted proper training in the field. Replying to a question, Rashdi admitted the flaws in the system of the provincial government and said that it is still not capable of providing clean drinking water and education facilities to the people of rural areas. She added that the question of health comes after these two services are taken care of.

The provincial coordinator for the maternal and neonatal program, Dr Sahib Jan Bader, was of the view that training, similar to a house job, should be started under the government’s supervision. She also announced that the provincial government is working on a policy related to mother and child health, which will be disclosed by the government in the month of December.

Another panellist, Dr Sabiha Khursheed, who has served as the health director-general to the provincial government of Punjab – being the only female health director-general in the history of Pakistan – said nurses working with the military staff are well-trained and well-equipped. “Nurses at government hospitals should be given training similar to that of military nurses,” she said.

Sindh health director-general Dr Hasan Murad Shah said that the government of Sindh has failed to achieve the health targets set by the United Nations.

“We are a country that is now compared to Nigeria, Afghanistan and other African countries,” said Shah. He added that a programme is under consideration in which as many as 100 lady health workers will be trained from Tharparkar district. He urged that the topic of family planning should be taken seriously now as the population of Pakistan is expected to double in the next 15 years.

Another panellist and speaker, Dr Azra Ahsan, said the basic problem is that women do not return for their follow-up check-ups. “Only 31% women return to their doctors for future advice,” she said.

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