Six out of 50 dispensaries were inaugurated
The Sindh health department opened up six dispensaries in Taluka Dahli in Tharparkar on Saturday to improve the local women’s access to birthing facilities, contraception and pregnancy counselling.
The new facilities were set up in pre-established health centres of the district in collaboration with the UNICEF.
Sindh Minister of Health and Population Welfare Dr Azra Pechuho inaugurated these government dispensaries in THQ Hospital Chachro, Jetrarr, Kathy Ji Veri, Verhari, Mehrao Vero, Jaisey Jo Phar and THQ Hospital Kheeme Jo Phar.
Their aim is to bring institutional birthing facilities closer to women who often die during delivery due to pregnancy complications at home.
Of these sepsis, or blood infections, because of unsterile and unsanitary conditions during birth are what make the maternal mortality rate so high, the health minister told SAMAA Digital. The other cause of concern is post-pregnancy haemorrhaging.
“The best way to prevent these would be to have deliveries at birthing stations with sterile instruments and a hygienic environment. This is why institutional delivery is very crucial for both the mother and the infant,” she said.
Sindh has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country after Balochistan. Tharparkar, being a remote desert lacking in basic facilities such as clean water and electricity, is especially afflicted. The people there live in jhugis—huts made of wood and straw— and obtain drinking water from faraway wells, which quite often run dry.
More than 500 children died in Tharparkar last year due to malnutrition and drought-like conditions, while over 200 have died this year despite the lifting of the drought, official statistics show.
“The dispensaries would also provide continuous care for the child in the shape of immunisation, counselling on breast feeding, counselling on nutrition, weaning foods and counselling of the mother for contraception and spacing of births,” Dr Pechuho said, explaining the government’s plans to bring down the rates of new-born and infant mortality in the region.
Pakistan has the highest new-born mortality rate in the world according to the UNICEF. Birth asphyxia, a condition where oxygen cannot reach the baby’s brain before, during or directly after delivery, is the second most common cause of infant mortality.
The health minister insists that if a trained midwife delivers the baby, she can assess the child’s health condition as soon as it is born and attempt to resuscitate. But training a midwife professionally takes up to two years. And right now, there weren’t enough of them to run the dispensaries.
Doctors and medical staff from other cities don’t want to be posted in a remote place like Tharparkar because of the difficult working conditions. So a roster of community midwives was the only solution.
Though health facilities have been established the problem of crossing vast expanses of the desert to reach them remains. Roads have been built and renovated by the highway authorities as of late, but using them is still a trial for people who travel either on foot or via donkey carts.
“We are trying to locate the dispensaries centrally so a large perimeter of the village is covered,” said the health minister. “Referrals to secondary hospitals, where C-sections and other procedures can be done, will be through an ambulance service.”
“Yes, there may be some women beyond the periphery of these villages, and for that we expect to give them transport costs when we have done the budgeting which will also be an encouragement for these women to come to these facilities.”
Many women do not avail of these services as they don’t have the money to pay for their transport and conditional cash transfers will be given, Dr Pechuho explained.
These would be done through Easypaisa. She also mentioned a plan to launch a birth registry where births from each household will be registered.
“This is a long-term programme, it has a long gestational period which will take long to mature but hopefully we’ll get there,” the health minister said.