Punjab, Sindh want to replicate KP’s mother, child health initiative

PESHAWAR: The provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh have shown interest in replicating Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s mother and child health programme under which women are paid for hospital check-ups to improve health indicators, according to officials.

“The government of Punjab has requested for sharing information and guidance regarding starting a programme modeled on Chief Minister Special Initiative for Mother and Child Health, started in 2014, to improve women and child health indicators,” provincial coordinator of mother and child health programme Dr Sahib Gul told Dawn.

He said that both Sindh and Punjab provinces hinted at replicating the programme during inter-provincial coordination meetings. “We have improved all six indicators of mother and child health except neonatal care for which specialists weren’t available,” he said, adding that UNFPA, which was supporting Sindh, was also in touch with them.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa extended the programme this year after an evaluation, which showed that about 130,000 deliveries were conducted by skilled birth attendants of the total 200,000 births every year since its launch in 10 districts in 2014.

“To cut down maternal and neonatal deaths from pregnancy-related complications, Sindh has invited our officials for a briefing on our programme in which each woman gets money for check-ups in public hospitals,” said Dr Sahib Gul.

He said that a woman was entitled to get Rs2,700 for six compulsory check-ups. “The health departments of all the provinces discuss their issues, problems and successes in programmes in coordination meetings regularly,” he said.

Dr Sahib Gul said that if a programme showed better results in any part of the country, it could be adopted in another part. “Both the provinces would be assisted in the light of lessons we learnt during the past two years and they would adopt more refined programmes,” he added.

The official said that the programme, started at a cost of Rs300 million, offered free screening, tests, ultrasound, medicines and cash money to improve visits of hospitals by pregnant women and reduce number of harmful delays in time of delivery and save mothers and infants. The programme showed better results under which they had paid Rs45 million to women so far, he said.

Dr Sahib Gul said that Punjab and Sindh wanted the programme for their rural centres as it had led to increase in mother child OPDs after the announcement of the cash.

“Most of the government health facilities are situated within four to five kilometers of distance. The amount, given to all visiting women regardless of their financial status, helps families to hire vehicle to shift pregnant women on time to hospital and prevent complications,” he said.

He said that the innovative initiative was studied by both the provinces to utilise the health facilities, which were not visited by people before. “It has increased utility of our OPDs,” he said.

A woman receives Rs1,200 for four antenatal visits, Rs1,000 for delivery and Rs500 for postnatal checkups. The amount is sent to women through mobile phone numbers by the companies. About 206 women died in 100,000 live births in the province against 276 in 2006-07.

To cope with preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age, there is complete coordination among provinces to bring down neonatal mortality to 12 per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality to 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030 in line with the Social Development Goals of the United Nations.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2016