According to the World Population Foundation Pakistan, there are 276 maternal deaths per 100,000 births each year. Indeed, in a press release issued in June, the organisation had urged Pakistan to recognise and treat maternal mortality as a human rights issue. Meanwhile, at a recent forum in Karachi, women parliamentarians underscored the need to strengthen the country’s midwifery and nursing cadres and improve the delivery of primary health services in the country. It was pointed out that over 80 per cent of pregnant mothers delivered at home, attended by unskilled birth attendants.
Often families living in far-flung areas do not have the funds to take their women to a proper medical centre. Even if they manage the journey, a majority of secondary and tertiary healthcare centres do not offer emergency obstetrical care on a 24-hour basis. As a result, community midwives play a crucial role. There exists a pressing need to run programmes aimed at training midwives, a move that would bolster the healthcare system. The agreement recently reached between the Aga Khan Foundation and the health ministry’s Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Programme is a step in the right direction. Acknowledging that community midwives could play an important role in decreasing infant and maternal mortality at the grass-roots level, the public-private partnership pledges to provide training and financial support to midwives in the Chitral district. The country needs more such initiatives to support efforts to improve the healthcare network. Skilled birth attendants are of great importance if the health authorities are to successfully reduce the level of preventable complications and deaths among both newborns and mothers.