Islamabad - The federal and provincial health ministers endorsed 10 years mother and child health action plan that commits to enhance health spending about 3 to 4 per cent of GDP.

In a high profile inter-provincial meeting organised Wednesday in Islamabad, Saira Afzal Tarar, Minister for National Health Services and Coordination presented the national vision for coordinated priority actions to address challenges of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child health and nutrition in Pakistan.

The document helps to set national priorities, declares clear budgeted targets and aims at mobilising civil society. It is on the one hand focuses on social determinants and addressing inequities in health while on the other hand it shows a multi-sectorial approach with strong links to nutrition and reproductive health and family planning.

“At present, Pakistan spends 0.6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health while the World Health Organisation recommends about 3 to 4 per cent spending of GDP therefore the plan commits to increase the health spending gradually,” said DG National Health Asad Hafeez. “In coming days the provinces will chalk out an action plan of two to three years to materialise the vision,” he said. The plan that has been envisioned analysing recent data on mother and child health would roll out by June this year, he added.

When it gets to reducing under five child mortality, it is crucial to prioritise interventions that concentrate on the first 28 days of a child’s life. Neonatal period accounts for almost two third of all under-five deaths. The new action plan takes this fact into account and focuses on introducing and scaling-up the essential interventions for improved new-born care as part of the continuum of care and putting particular focus on remote rural districts and urban slums.

The plan also addresses the overall low immunisation coverage in Pakistan, taking into account that one out of four under-five deaths are caused by vaccine preventable diseases. It also emphasises evaluation of Lady Health Workers programme and to further enhance its coverage.

The meeting was attended by provincial ministers, development partners and renowned public health experts. A comprehensive action plan for the next 10 years to achieve this goal was presented for discussion and endorsement during the meeting.

Speaking on the occasion, the minister reiterated the commitment of the government that mother and child safety through proper immunisation and better nutrition are a major priority. In line with the global “A Promise Renewed” movement, the minister stressed that the drive towards the Millennium Development Goals  (MDGs) goals 4, 5 shall be sustained until no mother, newborn or under-5 child dies from preventable causes.  

“With this plan we will further our evidence-based equity approach. We will build on best practices and invest in finding new innovative ways to fight mother and new born mortality and we will focus on the most vulnerable,” she added.

The meeting was attended among others by the Country Representatives of the WHO, USAID and UNICEF. As special guests UNICEF’s global Director of Health Dr Mickey Chopra, and Dr Haifa Madi, Director Health in WHO Regional Office Cairo, attended the meeting.

“Every minute a child dies in Pakistan, every hour three women die - the majority from preventable diseases.

This is unacceptable and I congratulate the Government of Pakistan for its renewed commitment to respond to this problem,” said Angela Kearney, Country Representative of UNICEF. “I am confident that this plan will have a direct positive impact on the survival of children and women,” she continued.  

The minister said the government is working to ensure availability of high quality maternal, newborn and child health services to all, especially for the poor and the disadvantaged. “This plan was chalked out on the directions of prime minister to the national leadership to take stock of situation and carve a comprehensive action plan with identified priority areas at national and provincial levels,” she added.