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Infant mortality rate rises as maternal health remains neglected

Karachi: A crippling lack of awareness and facilities related to reproductive healthcare remains the root cause for the persistent rise in child and mother mortality rates in urban and rural Sindh, said Ammara Ashraf, manager of DKT International’s Dhanak Programme, at a briefing held on Wednesday in connection with the NGO’s project in Pakistan.

“To stem the unfortunate rise of such deaths, there is an immediate need to provide reproductive health counselling and facilities. At present, the majority of married women in rural areas, who themselves are suffering malnutrition or related health complications, have no say in family health matters,” she said.

“Irrespective of their health, they are forced to bear children and, given the abject reproductive health facilities available to them, often die during childbirth. Similarly, at times when the mothers survive, the infants are extremely weak and fail to survive past the age of five.”

According to Ammara, the dearth of reproductive health facilities is what the Dhanak programme aims to address. “With this venture, we are trying to reach and provide basic health facilities, such as screening and diagnostic services, to as many women across Sindh as possible. Reproductive health remains the main focus and we will be looking to provide women information about health family planning methods and also products that can be helpful to this end,” she said.

Citing research material published by experts and gynaecologists, she said a large portion of Sindh’s women spent most of their fertile lifespan rearing children. Such unhealthy reproductive habits, according to Ammara, lead to several pregnancy-related issues with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, anaemia and malnutrition being the most common among the province’s women.

“At present, Sindh has troublingly high infant and female mortality rates; these can only be improved through better reproductive health facilities and more awareness about the benefits of birth spacing,” she said.

Efforts in the province

Under the programme, Ammara added, 12 health camps had been setup across Karachi. “We have enlisted the help of local gynaecologists, who are providing basic health and screening facilities to women in poor localities,” she said.

“Similarly, six more camps have been established in Hyderabad. Over the six-day duration of these camps, women can avail free diabetes, blood pressure and Body Mass Index (BMI) testing services.”

Ammara said that after Karachi and Hyderabad, preparations were underway for more such health and family planning camps across major cities of Sindh under the programme.

“In addition, under the Dhanak programme, DKT International has trained over 200 Community Midwives (CMWs) and setup several midwifery centres in Thatta, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allah Yar, Mithi, Matli, Talhar and other cities,” she told the audience.

The News