Gareth Thomas, who is visiting Pakistan in the run up to the one year anniversary of the earthquake, said:
“A woman in Pakistan is 120 times more likely to die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth in her lifetime than a woman in the UK. For poor women the risk is even higher.
“The UK is contributing to this new Pakistan led initiative to train more community based midwives, provide better family planning services and have skilled staff who can safely deliver babies in an emergency in all district hospitals.
“We hope that the Government of Pakistan will also invest in the programme so that in five years’ time, we will have helped save the lives of more than 30,000 women and 100,000 babies and ensured 10 million families across Pakistan are healthier than they are today.”
Funding from the Department for International Development for the nationwide Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Programme will depend on the Government of Pakistan allocating at least £123 million of the overall £245 million cost of the initiative.
UK support will be focused in the provinces of Punjab and North West Frontier Province which account for two thirds of Pakistan’s estimated population of 165 million.
Between 2006-2011, this support, together with expected investment from the Government of Pakistan and other development partners, is expected to save the lives of at least 30,000 women and 100,000 babies, prevent serious ill health and disability for 3.5 million women, and improve the health and quality of life of 10 million families across the whole of Pakistan.
DFID’s expected contribution of £90m over five years will fund 28 per cent of the total cost of providing:
· emergency child birth and newborn care in all district hospitals in Pakistan;
· 15,000 skilled staff trained in delivering children in emergencies, newborn care, childhood illness and family planning;
· family planning services available at 80 per cent of first level health care facilities;
· a new generation of community midwives – 10,000 to be trained by 2010 (in order to meet a 2010 target of 70 per cent of births attended by skilled birth attendants, and work towards a 90 per cent target by 2015);
· direct information about improving maternal, newborn and child health by informing families of the benefits of such issues as nutrition during pregnancy and raising awareness about the health benefits of family planning; and
· More effective management systems in provinces and districts, including strategic partnerships with NGOs and businesses.
While the complications that cause maternal and newborn deaths are often difficult to predict or prevent, most can be treated relatively cheaply. Risks can be further reduced by access to family planning and other reproductive health services.