UNICEF Supported Mother and Child Week Benefits Millions across the Country
By Fatima Shahryar
RAJANPUR and MUZAFFARGARH DISTRICTS, PAKISTAN, November 7, 2013 - “Earlier I would feel scared of the vaccines, as they caused my children to suffer from fever. But with time I have learned that while this fever is temporary, regular vaccination helps my children stay healthy and immune from various communicable diseases”, says Shameem.
Shameem, 24, is a mother of 4 children, and despite being aware of the importance of immunization, is not convinced on seeking the services of a skilled birth attendant.
Having given birth to all children at home, Shameem states, “I have never felt the need of going to a health facility for child delivery, as the children can easily be delivered at home.”
Every half an hour, in some part of the world, a mother loses her life while bringing to life another soul. The events of joy become the events of mourning. Playing its role in saving these precious lives, UNICEF supports provincial health departments to hold a Mother and Child Week (MCWk) across the country twice every year. The activities are designed and implemented by National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care across the nation and local Non-government Organisations (NGOs) in Lady Health Worker (LHW) uncovered areas, working in the specific districts. The activities primarily focus on accelerated efforts and awareness sessions on issues related to mothers, newborn and child health (MNCH).
“During this week, we have more people willing to hear about the benefits of the health services and work together with us, due to the hype all around the community. It is through these activities that we also get to identify and help certain neglected cases too”, says Sughra Bibi, a local NGO worker in Rajanpur. “The mother and child week should be held more often, in order to enable us to cover various topics with equal detail” adds Sughra Bibi.
The MCWk not only focuses on women as audience but is also designed to reach the male community members, opinion leaders, teachers, health workers, and youth. A prominent feature of the week is the health festivals, held across the project districts by partner NGOs.
“Since we bring the information through entertainment to the local residents, coupled with other activities, the health festivals not only get us large audience but also serve as a useful medium for sensitization through interactive activities and theatrical stage performances.” says Rehan, representative Jahandad Society for Community Development (JSCD), Rajanpur. JSCD is one of the local NGOs working as a UNICEF implementing partner in the district.
MCWk is an innovative, holistic approach of delivering a package of integrated evidence based interventions at facility and community level. It entails a multi-intervention approach incorporating immunization, de-worming, breastfeeding promotion and control of pneumonia and diarrhoea. Key health messages are delivered through health desks, banners, wall chalking, and interactive sessions encouraging local school teachers and LHWs to take active part in the planned activities.
“This time around for the mother and child week, we are following the immunization and Pneumonia day theme. Working together with the LHWs of my area, we have accelerated our efforts in identifying cases and ensuring that every mother and child in the area is immunized against vaccine preventable diseases”, says Basheer, a local vaccinator in Muzaffargarh.
UNICEF along with the provincial departments of health initiated the MCWk in two districts in 2007, and later scaled it up countrywide. During this week, UNICEF with health departments and its partner organizations also hold various monitoring visits while facilitating implementation of focused activities. During the monitoring visits the team members get to see a bigger picture of service delivery and its reception among the residents, helping identify the areas that require more attention.
While people like Shameem are adapting slowly to seeking health care services, it is heartening to see the efforts of people like basheer, serving and sensitizing the people of his community towards betterment.