ISLAMABAD: Concern over Pakistan’s maternal and infant mortality rates ranked high during a conference organised by the Research Advocacy Fund (RAF) at a local hotel here on Wednesday.
Participants argued that evidence-based advocacy and policies based on quality non-clinical research can help improve practices related to maternal and newborn health that currently rank the country the sixth in the world. Though the government has tried to overcome neonatal morbidity and mortality over the last 15 years, it has failed to achieve the required level and the rates remain high.
The conference presented findings from various RAF funded projects – a baseline survey of eight key family practices in Sindh said Pakistan account for 7 percent of global neonatal deaths with an estimated 298,000 preventable deaths, while 46 percent of neonates are reportedly immunized.
A Balochistan-based study reflects the maternal mortality ratio is significantly higher than the rest of the country with 785 deaths reported per 100,000 live births. Postpartum bleeding, one of the major causes of maternal mortality, is considered healthy for the mother.
The unequal access to healthcare and provision of health care vary between the poor and wealthy and even between provinces, which participants believed are among the major reasons behind high mortality rates. This coupled with socio-cultural structures which derail women empowerment and lack access or the propensity to avail basic health facilities, prove a disastrous partnership.
Health Services Academy Executive Director Dr Assad Hafeez said research-based evidence should not be confined to the academic world, but used while formulating or improving policies and practices to help save the lives of mothers and newborns. Member of National Assembly (MNA) Dr Donya Aziz said an increased focus on women’s access to health services would help improve maternal and newborn health.
Department for International Development (DFID), UK Senior Health Advisor Desmond Whyms said that the UK’s primary health priority in Pakistan was saving the lives of its women and children. He pledged that the UK will work with Pakistan over the next few years, to prevent 3,600 women from dying in childbirth, saving the lives of 110,000 children and preventing 0.5million children from becoming undernourished.
RAF is a grant fund of the DFID and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to help achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 and 5. Managed by the British Council, RAF funds non-clinical research and evidence-based advocacy to improve practices and policies related to maternal and newborn health.
The conference was attended by both public and private sector delegates, including provincial secretaries and directors general of health, MNCH programme managers and heads of various national and international NGOs.