European Union parliamentarians applaud Mother-Child Health project in Uzbekistan
By Savita Varde-Naqvi
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 2 November 2010 – Members of Parliament from the European Union visited Tashkent in October to see the positive results that Uzbekistan’s Mother and Child Health (MCH) project has produced – including improvements in safe motherhood and survival of newborns and children under the age of five.
Implemented by the Ministry of Health in partnership with UNICEF and the EU, the first phase of the project launched in 2008 and will continue into 2011. Officials from the Uzbek Ministry of Health and UNICEF briefed the parliamentarians on the initiative.
Commitment to health care
The EU delegation visited the MCH training centre at the Republican Scientific Research Institute of Paediatrics in Tashkent and was addressed by Deputy Minister of Health Prof. A. Kamilov and UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan Jean-Michel Delmotte.
Prof. Kamilov highlighted the importance of the project to health sector reform. “Our President, Islam Karimov, was recently at the UN General Assembly Special Session on the review of the Millennium Development Goals and reiterated Uzbekistan’s commitment to achieving these global targets,” he said. “The MCH project supported by EU and UNICEF helps us considerably to move forward on MDG 4 and 5.”
The targets referenced by Prof. Kamilov call for reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.
“After the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, children’s right to education, nutrition and better health care has become one of the core agenda items of the European Union,” Mr. Delmotte told the parliamentarians. “Your presence here shows the commitment of European Union to ensure that all children have access to and enjoy better health care,”
Working through 85 maternity hospitals, regional and district level children’s hospitals, and more than 2,000 primary health care units, the MCH project has covered 14.5 million people – more than half the population of Uzbekistan. It has brought high-impact and low-cost interventions such as the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) model to families who would not have been able to afford them previously.
The project has so far focused on improving the technical skills of service providers and medical staff through a series of training sessions and the introduction of new, evidence-based practices. Funding for Phase II of the project – planned for 2011 through 2014 – has already been sanctioned by the EU to consolidate the gains of Phase I and expand them in the form of good governance across the health sector.
“Phase II of the project will introduce new participatory strategies of working with families and communities to involve them in the management of their own health and that of their children,” explained Mr. Delmotte.
Reduced costs for families
UNICEF Health Manager Dr. Hari Krishna Banskota presented highlights of the progress made by the MCH project in less than three years. One of its key achievements, he said, was a reduction in hospitalization costs and in over-prescription of medicines.
Citing evidence provided by the Children’s Hospital in the eastern province of Namangan, Dr. Banskota said the introduction of IMCI interventions have brought down the cost of treating a bronchial asthma case from 50,000 Soms (about $31) to 6,000 Soms ($4). In addition, the length of stay in hospital was drastically reduced from an average of 13 days, to just 4. Perhaps most important, patients were being treated with just one drug (Salbutamol) and oxygen therapy rather than with nine drugs, which was the case earlier.
Meanwhile, a pool of 665 national and regional MCH trainers have already trained thousands of doctors and other health providers, extending the positive impact of the project to primary health centres and households. This effort demonstrates that an equity-based approach – taking life-saving interventions to communities that have little access to quality health services – can make a significant contribution in reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals.
“Safe motherhood is high on the list of priorities of the EU’s development agenda,” said delegation Vice Chairman Alfreds Rubiks. “Thanks to this partnership, we were able to see the best use of EU development assistance in this part of the world.”