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‘Rural women still dependent on unskilled birth attendants’

KARACHI: There is a major portion of rural Pakistan where women are still dependent on unskilled birth attendants.

Only 16 percent of the poorest women give birth assisted by a skilled attendant, consequently bringing the highest maternal mortality rate in Pakistan (276 maternal deaths per 100,000 births) with an estimated 20,000 women losing their lives every year due to pregnancy and childbirth- related issues.

While in Sindh, the maternal mortality rate shows an alarming situation being more than the average national figure of 314.

It is important to improve access to free medical services for women and promotion of healthy birth spacing to secure their lives. In this regard, recently a project has been launched in 10 districts of Sindh for ensuring access to family planning and reproductive health services.

HANDS Pakistan, in collaboration with Marie Stopes Society, is implementing the project in which women will get free services for pre- and post-natal care and safe delivery through skilled birth attendants along with free family planning services in 10 districts of the province.

Lady health workers and MARVI workers will provide vouchers to community women, i.e. women of reproductive age 14-48 years. These vouchers enable free treatment at local basic health units and private clinics. Further, district level clinics will also be technically equipped to provide better health care facilities to deal with any complications and avoid deaths during childbirth.

In order to overcome social barriers for effective implementation, HANDS is also working on a Behavior Change Communication Strategy involving mobilisation and a campaign through the dissemination of key messages on family planning and reproductive health. These messages are aired on cable TV and Radio FM. Simultaneous awareness sessions and one- to-one meetings help in reinforcing the messages.

HANDS district offices oversee the entire implementation of the provision of trainings, capacity building, technical support (antenatal/postnatal, child delivery and family planning services) and renovation of health facility. The development of the BCC strategy has contributed to optimising safe methods in reproductive health services.

Daily Times