Opportunities and Challenges: A new paradigm for maternal and child health
Five countries meet in Tashkent to reaffirm their commitment to health sector reforms and their resolve to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for Improved Maternal and Child Health.
Tashkent, Uzbekistan - 2 November 2006: The 10th AnnualMaternal and Child Health Forum, Central Asian Republics, opened in Tashkent, Uzbekistan today with representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, several international agencies and global experts reaffirming their commitment to strategies that will reduce infant, child and maternal deaths and illnesses and to turn policy and legislation into decisive action.
The objective of this annual forum is to bring together scientists and specialists to exchange knowledge and experience on priority health concerns relating to the survival, development and protection of children and the well-being of women. This tenth forum will review health sector reforms to date, the funding of these reforms and the implementation of integrated maternal and child health care programmes across the region.
“There is an urgent need to develop humane, confidential and caring health services for the youth and women. We must not be complacent and time to act is now.” - Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director
The Honourable Health Minister of Uzbekistan, Mr Feruz Nazirov opened the meeting, welcoming the participants to Tashkent and wishing them effective and fruitful discussions. He said that the recommendations coming out of this forum should guide the future health policies in the Central Asian Republics region.
“I am most impressed by the progress that has taken place in the Commonwealth of Independent States region in the area of Maternal and Child Health,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States, Maria Calivis. “The Multi Indicator Cluster Surveys reflect a reduction in infant, and under-five mortality rates, showing that the reforms are working. But progress is slow and must be speeded up if the Millennium Development Goals are to be attained by 2015. Of the emerging issues that need urgent attention, HIV/AIDS is the most critical. There is an urgent need to develop humane, confidential and caring health services for the youth and women. We must not be complacent and time to act is now.”
Mr. Hussein Aminov, Chief of Tajikistan's Maternal and Child Health Department, presented the recommendations from last year's ninth forum which included: early childhood development, the adaption of international standards for reporting and monitoring, the elimination of iodine deficiency disorders, and health sector reforms. He said that while all countries would not be able to achieve all of the targets, by the time of next year's forum to be held in Turkmenistan, there will have been considerable progress.
Mr. Feruz Nazirov made the opening presentation from Uzbekistan. Quoting His Excellency Islam Karimov, “Caring for the growing generation, striving for the upbringing of healthy, balanced and well-developed individuals – is our national character”, he said that the focus of health reforms in Uzbekistan has been to extend primary health care services to mothers and children in rural areas. Upgrade of the skills of health professionals and increased cooperation with international agencies are among the other recent improvements in the country. Looking to the future he said, “we will expand the introduction of live birth definitions to the entire health care system.”
Representatives from the other four countries also made presentations on the progress they have achieved and raised issues for discussion and common understanding. Keynote speeches by global experts also contributed to the set of issues to be discussed at the meeting.
“If there is one goal which all societies must achieve, it is Health for All,” said Development Economist Dr. A.K. Shiva Kumar speaking on “Children, Health and Society: the role of state and public action.” “The two priorities for countries should be Children First and preventive health care. Lessons from around the world show the importance of having community-based health care and the important role that the state has in financing and administering universal health,” he added.
Nutrition expert Jack Bagriansky presented the linkages between poor nutrition and an economic cost to a country. "Malnutrition is insidious and eats into the economic development of a country. In the case of children it means lower IQ, and reduced school performance. The technologies to overcome this are both simple and cost effective. Vitamin A supplementation programme for children, fortification of foods with micronutrients, and universal iodisation of salt are some of the most effective and well-tested strategies of the world."
Speaking on Child Survival and Development , UNICEF Representative Uzbekistan, Reza Hossaini, said “The introduction of integrated health services addressing neo-natal and childhood illnesses, better immunisation services, growth monitoring as an important tool for early identification of malnutrition, a system of surveillance and monitoring for timely detection of deviances, and several cost effective micronutrient strategies offers us enormous opportunities for making a giant leap towards this new paradigm for children and mothers. Our future generations will not forgive us if we let this moment slip by.”
The regional delegates and international experts will continue to discuss these issues over two days. The final recommendations will be announced at the closing session of the forum on November 3, 2006.
Bobur Turdiev, Communication Officer
Statement to 10th Mother and Child Health Forum, Central Asia Republics