KARACHI: US Ambassador Richard Olson launched the $387 million Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Program on Friday and the ambassador and Sindh Secretary of Health Inamullah Khan Dharejo signed a memorandum of understanding for the five-year project.
According to a press release issued by the US embassy, under this initiative, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will support Pakistan’s efforts to reach more mothers and children with integrated family planning, maternal, newborn, and child health services, and ultimately reduce maternal and child mortality rates.
Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Olson said: “The main goal of the Maternal and Child Health Program, whose launch we commemorate today, is to dramatically reduce maternal and infant mortality. This includes ambitious targets such as averting 4,000 maternal deaths, reducing infant mortality by 13 percent, and increasing the use of skilled birth attendants by 38 percent. This will be another landmark for US-Pakistan cooperation in the health sector.”
The MCH Program aims to support innovative approaches for strengthening the capacity of Pakistan’s public and private sectors by delivering high-impact, evidence-based health interventions such as service delivery, awareness raising, and health-system strengthening. The MCH Program will also provide technical assistance to the health and population sectors at the federal, provincial, and district levels to reform and improve service delivery.
The MCH Program will help forge partnerships between international and local health experts and Pakistan’s vibrant private sector to bring cutting-edge health approaches and models to Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Through these efforts, more women will have access to emergency obstetric care, modern contraception, and quality essential newborn care. New mothers will also be provided with critical information regarding hygiene, nutrition, immunizations, and treatment of common illnesses for their children through the first five years of life.
The release said this new MCH Program continues a five-decade-old tradition of US support to Pakistan in building and improving a quality healthcare system. During the 1950’s the United States helped Pakistan establish the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). In the 1960s the United States helped introduce oral rehydration kits to Pakistan, as well as decreased the number of malaria cases from seven million to less than 10,000.
More recently, it said, in the past three years, the United States has helped Pakistan build two hospitals (one at the JPMC in Karachi and another in Bagh), while construction of a third, a state-of-the-art medical center in Jacobabad, is underway. The United States has also helped Pakistan reconstruct and equip 155 health units, triple the size of and modernize the Central Warehouse for Health Commodities in Karachi, and helped thousands of medical professionals upgrade their skills.