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KARACHI, June 28: The United States and the Sindh health department signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday to launch an initiative to improve maternal and child health across the country starting from Sindh.

US ambassador Richard Olson said that his government valued the maternal and neonatal health to a great degree and that the five-year programme would ensure this vision.

The US ambassador formally launched the $387 million ‘Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Programme’ as he signed the MoU along with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Greg Gottlieb and Sindh health secretary Inamullah Khan Dharejo at a local hotel.

Under this initiative, the USAID will support Pakistan’s efforts to reach more mothers and children with an integrated family planning, maternal, newborn, and child health services and ultimately reduce maternal and child mortality rates.

“The main goal of the maternal and child health programme is to dramatically reduce maternal and infant mortality,” said Ambassador Olson in his speech to the audience. “This includes ambitious targets such as averting 4,000 maternal deaths, reducing infant mortality by 13 per cent, and increasing the use of skilled birth attendants by 38 per cent,” he said.

He called it another landmark for the US-Pakistan cooperation in the vital health sector. He said that the programme that started from Sindh would cover Azad Kashmir and the rest of the country in the due course of time.

“The programme aims at supporting innovative approaches for strengthening the capacity of the South Asian nation’s public and private sectors by delivering high-impact, evidence-based health interventions such as service delivery, increasing awareness, and health-system strengthening.

“The programme will also provide technical assistance to the health and population sectors at the federal, provincial, and district levels to reform and improve service delivery.”

Speaking on the occasion, the Sindh health secretary lauded the US efforts in improving health care facilities in Sindh and added that the programme would be particularly important for Sindh rural, remote, backward areas where healthcare facilities were not sufficient.

“This programme aims at saving our mothers and improving the health of mothers and infants to satisfactory level,” he aided.

“The progress in reducing maternal and newborn mortality in the country has been slow and contraceptive prevalence has stagnated at 30 per cent for the past 18 years.

“Pakistan will not achieve its health millennium development goals to improve women and children’s health,” said a USAID summary.