KARACHI - Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) Service Component 2 of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Pakistan’s Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Programme, implemented under the flagship of the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP),has made significant strides in mobilizing communities for family planning services using Lady Health Workers (LHWs).

The LHW program was established in 1994 by the government with the aim of providing basic health and family planning services to rural communities at their doorstep. MCHIP realized that the LHW program was being underutilized, as a number of issues plagued the programme, including high dropouts and lack of trained professional LHWs.

As such, MCHIP launched a series of essential trainings in an attempt to build the capacities of LHW’s for more efficient and effective functioning. 15,230 LHWs were trained in various packages around Maternal and Neonatal health care.

As part of the training program, MCHIP prepared comprehensive information, education and communication (IEC) material for LHWs, to be used during their community support group (CSG) sessions. CSG sessions covered a number of themes including Iron Folic Acid (IFA), nutrition, breastfeeding, and hygiene. These LHWs are now conducting CSGs on monthly basis in their catchment areas. Additionally, LHW’s were given a “Mother’s booklet” for dissemination. This book is an initiative to educate mothers through pictures and culturally sensitive messages. As these mothers cannot read, messages are communicated through pictures to educate them on maternal and child health and hygiene, pregnancy care and the importance of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy. These LHW’s were also tasked with providing basic preventative and family planning services at doorstep.

A key challenge however, was a lack of resources and remote geographical access that hindered efficient and effective performance of Lady Health Supervisors (LHSs). MCHIP overcame these issues by fixing 25 out of order vehicles in the district of Tharparkar, so that LHSs could perform their duties with maximum efficiency. However, in areas not covered by LHWs, MCHIP implemented community outreach activities through community health workers (CHWs).

MCHIPhas also organized a number of advocacy events to disseminate important maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) messages and information about availability of services at the nearest facility, in different communities.