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Improved health services for mothers and newborns in Pakistan

HAJI GHAZI, Pakistan (July 29, 2011) – In Haji Ghazi, a small town and Union Council in southern Punjab Province, dozens of women – some pregnant, others holding their newborn children – fill a room in the town's Basic Health Unit, or BHU. A doctor carefully examines and provides medical advice to each of them.

UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on a new 24-hour health clinic serving mothers and children in Haji Ghazi, a village in Punjab Province that was devastated by Pakistan's monsoon floods in 2010.

Rabiya Bibi, 20, patiently waits for her turn, holding Mariyam, her 13-day old daughter, in her arms. This is her first child. She was delivered in this BHU and has been brought back for a routine check-up. Ms. Bibi is conscientious about all medical check-ups, for herself as well as the baby.

"I got pregnant soon after the floods, when we returned to our village from a camp," she explains, referring to the monsoon floods that inundated Haji Ghazi a year ago. "I knew that delivering in a private clinic is expensive, and we didn't have enough money," she adds.

The local Health Supervisor advised Ms. Bibi that the BHU in town had expanded its services and become a hospital. Soon thereafter, she began antenatal visits there with her obstetrician, eventually giving birth at the facility. "Now I bring Mariyam here for her check-ups and vaccinations," she says.

Obstetric and neonatal care

Lady Health Supervisor Baji Kulsoom informs Rabiya Bibi about post-natal care for her infant daughter, Mariyam

© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/Malik

Lady Health Supervisor Baji Kulsoom informs Rabiya Bibi about post-natal care for her infant daughter, Mariyam, and the help she can get from the Basic Health Unit, Haji Ghazi, Pakistan,

During the last seven months, more than 460 successful deliveries have taken place at the Haji Ghazi BHU. By contrast, for 14 years before the floods, not a single child had been delivered in the unit. In fact, the BHU previously didn't offer obstetric and neonatal health services.

As a result, pregnancy and childbirth used to be immensely difficult for the women of Haji Ghazi. Transportation to the nearest health facility, the high cost of delivery in a private clinic and the risk of not reaching a clinic in time – all these were major concerns not only for pregnant women but for the community as a whole.

The lack of obstetric and neonatal care in the BHU meant that a number of women lost their lives, while others lost their unborn or newborn children.

After the floods, UNICEF teamed up with the Punjab Health Department to initiate 24-hour emergency obstetric and neonatal services for flood-affected women and children in Dera Ghazi Khan District, where Haji Ghazi is located.

'A true blessing'

New mother Rabiya Bibi shows the ‘New Born Kit’ she received from UNICEF when her baby was born

© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/Malik

New mother Rabiya Bibi shows the ‘New Born Kit’ she received from UNICEF when her baby was born at the Basic Health Unit in Haji Ghazi, Pakistan.

"No one in this town, especially a pregnant woman, could have imagined receiving medical attention in the middle of the night," explains Health Supervisor Baji Kulsoom. "Round-the-clock medical care every day of the week, and so close to their houses, is a true blessing for the people of this town. It has made my job easy."

One of the medical officers at the BHU, Dr. Nazia Shahid, is equally enthusiastic, pointing out that the clinic serves the Union Council's entire population of 38,000 and treats between 100 and 150 patients every day.

"This BHU also serves as the central registration point," says Dr. Shahid. "All patients and newborns are issued registration cards. Each visit is noted on the card. This helps maintain a record of their treatment and vaccinations."

Author: A. Sami Malik

Source: UNICEF

WHAT YOUR MONEY CAN BUY

$20 can provide 480 High Energy Protein Biscuits to provide children with nutrition in the wake of a disaster.

$140 can provide a Basic Family Water Kit to provide clean drinking water to 10 families.

$256 can provide a School-in-a-Box kit to set up a temporary school for 40 students during an emergency. The kit contains a chalk board, notebooks, pencils, erasers, scissors and even multi-band radio.

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