European Union parliamentarians see improving maternal and child health in Uzbekistan
By Maksim Fazlitdinov
SYRDARYA PROVINCE, Uzbekistan, 3 May 2011 – Sixteen members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Union (EU) visited Uzbekistan last week, where they heard feedback from beneficiaries of the Mother and Child Health (MCH) project.
The project is being implemented by the government’s Ministry of Health in partnership with UNICEF and the European Commission in eight regions across the country. It aims to improve the quality of maternal and child healthcare. A proposed nationwide scale up of the project was one of the key discussion points on the EU mission agenda.
Central to the project is the training and mentoring of health providers in low-cost, high-impact techniques. The parliamentary delegation visited the Hakikat Primary Health Care Centre (PHC) where two out of every three doctors and almost half the nurses were trained as part of the MCH project. Nurses have received skills in integrated management of childhood illnesses, breast feeding and child growth and development monitoring.
The health centre serves a local population of 7,500, including 1,600 women of reproductive ages and 500 children. “In the last few years the quality of mother and child healthcare services and counselling provided in the health centre has significantly increased. The satisfaction of caregivers with the services has also been going up due to a more client-oriented approach,” said Bashorat Mullaeva, Community Advisor for Hakikat.
She added that ties with the community had been strengthened, with local leaders now also focused, “to further improve the situation related to health, hygiene and nutrition in our community through regular household visits and town hall meetings."
Diarrhoea, anaemia and acute respiratory infection cases among children under the age of five have fallen, and more local mothers exclusively breast feed their babies during the first six months of life.
Skills and equipment
Improving health services for children and mothers is vital if Uzbekistan is to achieve its Millennium Development Goal targets by 2015 on reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.
The MCH project has also established two province-wide health resource centres, one at a children’s hospital and the other at a pre-natal centre. Training programmes, materials and equipment have been made available and already 1,600 doctors and nurses from throughout the province have been trained.
“We also managed to create a pool of trainers and 14 persons from that pool perform as trainers at a national level,” said Farruh Sharipov, Head of the Syrdarya Province Health Department. “Our monitoring data shows correct application of skills and knowledge by over 65 per cent of trainees in their everyday work, which significantly contributes in the overall success of the project.”
The EU parliamentarians were pleased to learn about that an effective use of resources was making strides in improving healthcare in Uzbekistan. UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan Jean-Michel Delmott said the success of the project to date was testament to commitment of the Ministry of Health and the collaborative approach taken by the project partners in ensuring a transparent, coherent and coordinated implementation.
It was a view echoed by Member of the European Parliament Ana Gomes, who called for the EU and the people of Uzbekistan to continue to work together.
“Our mission is to further strengthen this cooperation in various spheres, including the crucially important area of healthcare,” said Ms. Gomes. “Today’s field visit provided us with the first-hand evidence on how population of Uzbekistan benefits from the EU-supported MCH Project and we are very pleased with the results achieved so far.”
She added: “We are looking forward to supporting more of such human rights-based effective initiatives in the future.”