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Eight maternal, child health centres to be set up: Dr Yasmin Rashid

By Our Correspondent
December 14, 2021

LAHORE: Over 5,000 women die in pregnancy related complications every year in Punjab, while 15pc of pregnancies in Pakistan end in maternal deaths. The Punjab government is developing a health sector strategy and setting up eight new maternal and child health centres focused to provide wide range of healthcare services, including family planning services and contraceptives supply.

This was stated by Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid at dissemination of innovative model for improving access to family planning services for marginalised women. The meeting was held to disseminate findings of the innovative model piloted through a digital voucher scheme to extend access to family planning services to the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) beneficiaries. The pilot was jointly implemented by BISP and Population Council and Punjab Population Innovation Fund (PPIF) in Rahim Yar Khan District.

Addressing the audience, Dr Yasmin Rashid reiterated the government’s vision of ensuring universal access to family planning for sustainable growth and poverty alleviation. She said that the evidence generated from the innovative model would support the government in implementing similar programmes that provide better health outcomes for the poorest women and their children.

“Public-private partnership, evidence generation and technology interventions must be promoted in the health sector to overcome inequities in access to health services,” she added. In her welcome address, Dr Zeba Sathar, Country Director Population Council said, “The highest unmet need for contraceptives in Pakistan is among the low-income women. The right to family planning services is most compromised for marginalised population mainly due to financial constraints.”

Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht said, “The government is committed to enhancing access to health and reproductive health services through financing innovative models, strengthen existing alliances and forge new ones with the private sector, leverage technology and mobilize finance. Contraceptives uptake is closely linked with girls education and the government is focused to provide conducive environment for girls education. The government has recently upgraded 18,000 schools from primary to middle level to reduce number of out of school children in the province.”

Population Welfare Minister Hashim Dogar stressed that the Population Welfare Department lays great emphasis on providing quality family planning services through its service delivery network and is striving hard to make reproductive health and family planning services available to every household in Punjab province.

Presenting key findings of the voucher scheme, Ms Iram Kamran, Deputy Director, Population Council, said, “The voucher scheme served 21,165 BISP beneficiaries in Rahim Yar Khan exceeding the anticipated target of 20,000. 6pc increase in Contraceptive Prevalence Rate was recorded in the intervention area from 53pc to 59pc during the implementation period while unmet need for modern contraception decreased from 10.7pc to 6.5pc. 28pc never users at baseline survey reported using contraceptives at the end line. A significant shift was also recorded from short term and less effective methods to long acting reversible methods.”

Highlighting the use of digital technology, Khalil Muhammad, Senior Programme Manager IT at Population Council said, “Mobile application KarainZindagiAsaan was used by service providers to register/verify beneficiaries with BISP data and to digitally record clients’ visit details during provision of FP services. Digital Voucher Management System was also developed and used for financial reimbursements and monitoring of the field activities.”

Dr Ismat Tahira, Secretary, Benazir Income Support Programme said, “Research shows poorer households have large family sizes with high unmet need for family planning. We must prioritise our efforts to reach vulnerable segments of our population.”

Dr Bakhtior Kadirov, Country Representative, UNFPA, reaffirmed UNFPA’s support to work with the government of Pakistan in ensuring that that high-quality family planning and reproductive health services.