Health Experts, politicians, policy makers and donors have unanimously agreed that maternal, newborn, child health (MNCH) and nutrition should be a national priority. The group strongly agreed that political parties should include it in their manifestoes and also advocate at their respective regional and national forums. They were speaking at a Seminar on reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) and nutrition, organised by Aga Khan University’s Division of Women and Child Health with the support of United States Agency for Inter-national Development (USAID).
Chief guest at this session, Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, and Member, National Assembly wel-comed these national endeavours and encouraged all stakeholders to join hands in addressing the situation.
Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta, Chair, Division of Women and Child Health, AKU, outlined the challenges, determinants and current inequities based on poverty and district level residence.
He said that the people in provinces recognise the issues and are very wel-coming towards health improvements and the ground is fertile for implementation. He stressed that there are enormous opportunities for increasing the efficiency of programmes addressing MNCH and nutrition in Pakistan.
Dr. Bhutta recommended six packages of care covering pre-conceptual and post-abortion care, antenatal care, childbirth and immediate newborn care, postnatal care, expand-ed nutrition package, and expanded immunisation package including streng-thening the current routine immunization systems.
Dr. Nabeela Ali, Chief of Party, USAID TAUH, highlighted the urgent need to address the gover-nance and budgetary issues that hamper progress. She pointed out that private sector is neglected and largely unregulated and that public private part-nership was not optimally utilised.
Other speakers and panellists included Dr Farid Midhet from Qassim University College of Medicine, Kingdom of Saudia Arabia; Dr Zeba Sattar, Country Director, Population Council; Katherine Crawford, Director Health, USAID; Desmond Whyms, Senior Health Advisor, DFID; Moeed Pirzada, Senior Journalist, and Dr Sania Nishtar, Chief Executive, HeartFile.
Another session conducted by the Division of Women and Child Health, AKU in partnership with Institute of Development Studies, Sussex and funded by DFID, UK, explored the under-nutrition context and challenges in Pakistan. Key policy lessons emerged for mainstreaming nutrition in provincial and federal planning as Pakistan mobilizes for action on under-nutrition.
Addressing the session, Chief guest Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, Member National Assembly said, “On behalf of Pakistan People’s Party, I assure that the issue of women, child health and nutrition would continue to be our priority.”
Presenting the political economy analysis of the state of nutrition in Pakistan, Dr Shehla Zaidi, Assistant Professor, AKU, pointed out that under-nutrition is a recognised health problem in Pakistan and plays a substantial role in the country’s elevated maternal, and child mor-bidity and mortality. “The recent National Nutrition Survey 2011 was the largest survey ever conducted in Pakistan on maternal and child nutrition at the provincial level and hence, has great relevance to post-devolution planning.”