PR No.260 Islamabad : March 29, 2016

Minister, National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar, said that Mother and Child Health is a priority for the Government of Pakistan and there is the strongest political will and commitment in this area. She was addressing Inaugural Session of South Asia the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Innovations Meeting today in Islamabad.

She said, eminent experts participating in this regional conference are working hard to make this region a healthier place for all mothers and children and this meeting I am confident will help in identifying of our common challenges, opportunities, sharing of best practices and innovations in the area.

Minister said, Prime Minister of Pakistan takes special interest in the area and has himself accorded approval to holding of this regional conference. Last year the Prime Minister in a high level meeting of international and national leaders in health directed stock taking of the situation of maternal and child health and carve a comprehensive action plan with identified priority areas at national and provincial levels.

She said, Upon directives of Prime Minister of Pakistan, we have developed a ten point national action plan for National Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH). The plan is helping to set national priorities, sets out clear budgeted targets and puts a strong focus on social determinants and addressing inequities in health while prioritizing a multi-sectorial approach with strong links to nutrition, reproductive health and family planning. With this plan we will further our evidence based equity approach. We will build on best practices and invest in finding new innovative ways to fight mother and new born mortality and focus on the most vulnerable.

Sharing similar geographical and socio economic situation, our issues and challenges are also the same and this convergence of health experts will provide an opportunity to find solutions of these issues. This meeting will also serve as a platform to share success stories of the region. It is encouraging to note that countries of our region have taken numerous initiatives in the area of mother and child health. These health improvements are the result of a wide range of innovations implemented by key stakeholders including national governments, regional or local governments and civil society actors.

Saira Afzal Tarar said, Lady Health workers Program of Pakistan, Basic Package of Health Services program for primary care in Afghanistan, Social Health Activist program in India, Progress in Family Planning in Bangladesh, Improved Health Indicators in Sri Lanka, BEHWAZ Program in Iran and Community Groups for Maternal Health in Nepal, stand out as shining examples of success and innovation in taking vital services to the doorsteps of the underserved and marginalized.

The aim of this two day meeting is to encourage cross-national learning from innovations implemented within the South Asia region over recent years to improve access to quality care for mothers and children. By demonstrating the added value of sharing ideas and perspectives at the regional level, this event will serve as a catalyst for the establishment of a policy research platform enabling greater regional level collaboration to face common challenges in public health and development.

She further said, indicators may not be enviable but I am sure there is no dearth of resolve, commitment and perseverance. Let me share that Pakistan’s MNCH National Vision for 2016 to 2025 has multiple strategies. First and foremost is improving the access and quality of MNCH primary care community based services to ensure continuum of care including newborn care in rural districts and urban slums.

A key feature of the vision includes improved quality of care in district facilities including rural health centers and district hospitals. As we all know, there is need for targeted supply side actions addressing the quality of health facilities.

Investing in nutrition of children, mothers and adolescent girls is another important aspect reflected in our National vision.

She further said, I would like to share that Pakistan has recently launched a landmark Health Insurance Program which targets those living below the poverty line.

The program which is being implemented in phases across the country is already benefitting hundreds of thousands of families. Hospital based deliveries have received special attention as part of the program. The program offers a special package of maternal health services besides catering to diseases among children.

Minister said, Our vision for mother and child health is of a society where women and children enjoy the highest attainable levels of health and no family suffers the loss of a mother or child due to preventable or treatable causes. The Government of Pakistan is working to ensure availability of high quality MNCH services to all, especially for the poor and the disadvantaged.

Secretary National Health Services Muhammad Ayyub Sheikh said that session of MNCH most significant aspect of today’s event is that it represents a convergence of policy makers, experts, advocates, influencers and implementers all standing united for a common cause. We have a responsibility towards our future generations. There is much that we can achieve through pooling wisdom. Success is the only option in the face of diverse challenges.

We believe that every child and every woman deserves a fair chance in life. As far as the Ministry of National Health Services is concerned, there is a firm commitment to the cause of improving mother and child health.

We seek guidance from Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan which remain the guiding spirit for policy making in the realm of mother and child protection.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said “Observe justice in dealing with your children in the same manner in which you expect to observe justice in them being kind and good to you”

The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan makes it a responsibility of the state to protect the health of mother and child. Article 35 states that “ it is the responsibility of the state to protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child”