|© UNICEF Pakistan/2005|
|UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah speaks at the landmark public health forum in Pakistan.|
By Mario Diaz
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 6 April 2005 – Pakistan is prioritizing the improvement of maternal health and child survival. During the first week of April, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Saukat Aziz, presided over a landmark public health forum entitled ‘Achieving the Millennium Development Goals for Maternal Health and Child Survival in Pakistan’. UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah delivered a keynote address at the forum.
In her remarks, Ms. Salah said: “I applaud the commitment the government has to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and revitalizing the Maternal and Child Health programme, thereby addressing preventable deaths among Pakistan’s women and children.”
Designed to bring together Pakistani and international health agencies, the forum addressed concerns about the high incidence of pregnancy-related complications and child mortality in the country. It also sought to promote government policy and interventions that save women’s and children’s lives.
Ms. Salah commended the "...vision the government of Pakistan has of a society where women and children enjoy the highest attainable levels of health and no family suffers the loss of a mother or a child due to preventable causes, a vision to which UNICEF is dedicated to bringing to reality in this country."
The Islamabad Declaration
Statistics indicate that the lifetime risk of maternal death for women in Pakistan is 1 in 31, while roughly 1 out of 10 children born in Pakistan die before the age of five (source: SOWC). Among the factors contributing to maternal death and infant mortality are high fertility rates, inadequate access to quality maternal and child care services, a low rate of skilled birth attendance, inadequate emergency obstetric and newborn care, low female literacy, poverty, and a heavy burden of communicable diseases.
Pakistan’s government is developing policies to prioritize these issues and implement solutions. Prime Minister Aziz said he would increase public expenditures for disease control and child health care, and that the Lady Health Workers programme (which promotes family planning and primary health care) would be bolstered to 100,000 nurses by year’s end. However, experts at the forum warned that progress is still too slow and that resources are often allocated inadequately.
At the conclusion of the forum, the Islamabad Declaration was adopted. In it, the Government, with support of its partners, pledges to implement a National Maternal and Child Health programme, prioritizing child survival and neonatal care interventions and skilled attendance for all births. The Declaration also calls for institutional and management reforms, strengthening the healthcare delivery system, monitoring, advocacy, community organization, social mobilization, and health education.