ISLAMABAD           -         The Covid-19 pandemic may lead to 31 percent increase in infant and maternal mortality in 12 months in Pakistan if health services remain halted, cautioned Dr Shahzad Ali Khan, Head of Public Health Department, Health Service Academy, Islamabad, in a virtual consultative session here on Monday.

The session was organized by the Health Service Academy Islamabad in collaboration with the Research and Development Forum for Safe Motherhood. Renowned public health experts both from public and private organizations shared their experiences and suggestions to address the challenges of mother and child health services in the present situation.

In his welcome address, Dr Aman Ullah Khan, CEO of Research and Development Forum for Safe Motherhood, said that it was expected that mother and child health services would be compromised as the Covid-19 had put unprecedented strain on health system of Pakistan. “But it would be important to make a roadmap for provision of uncompromised health services to expecting mothers, newborns and children in order to sustain the slow or gradual decline in infant and maternal mortality rate achieved in the last decades after putting in lot of resources and efforts,” he said.

While presenting a framework on provision of mother and child health services during and post Covid-19, Dr Shahzad Ali explained that the federal government and private organizations had already developed and disseminated guidelines and protocols on how to address the challenges of services delivery in the current pandemic. He said now it was also the duty of all public and private organizations to work together for effective implementation of these guidelines at all levels of service delivery.

Dr Nabeela Ali, Country Representative JSI Inc. shared her thoughts by saying that very limited health services were being made available at grassroots across all the provinces. She recommended that the office of Director General Health Services in provinces should take lead role in ensuring health services to women and children.

Sharing her experience, Dr Yasmeen Qazi, from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that family planning services had gone from bad to worse in the current pandemic. “Therefore, we should be strongly advocating for continuity of family planning services at all levels,” she said.

Dr Farid Midhet, Team Leader DAFPAK Palladium, explained that the family planning services were more essential than any other services. “And the role of Lady Health Worker is always important for ensuring availability and accessibility of health services at household level,” he said.

Concluding the session, Dr Atiya Abroo from health ministry said that the ministry had actively responded to the situation by developing many guidelines for health care providers and facilities. All basic information was clearly available in these guidelines and now provinces could make their own by using these documents.