BHURBAN, Feb 18: The United States will provide more than $1.5 billion in development assistance to Pakistan over the next five years to improve education, health, governance and economic growth.

USAID Acting Deputy Mission Director Douglass Arbuckle stated this in a written message read out at a seminar on “Transforming Health Systems: Lessons from Around the World”, held here on Saturday.

The seminar had been organized by Pakistan Initiative for Mothers and Newborns (Paiman) in collaboration with John Hopkins University Centre for Communication Programmes (JHU-CCP).

Mr Arbuckle renewed the US commitment to improving the lives of the people of Pakistan. USAID placed high priority on improving mothers and child health in Pakistan and Paiman was a testament to it. Within the framework of the new maternal and child health strategy, USAID was funding Paiman to work in 10 districts in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, and provincial and district health departments, he said.

In addition, the US also pledged a total of $510 million in earthquake relief and reconstruction efforts to assist the people and to support Pakistan government’s efforts.

Speaking on the occasion, Federal Minister for Health Mohammad Nasir Khan called upon civil society leaders, health professionals, international donors and health-care service providers to help the government improve maternal and neonatal health situation in the country.

He said the government attached top priority to improving maternal and newborn health (MNH) situation, the results of which were visible through the joint venture and technical cooperation between the health professionals of Pakistan and United States.

The participants of the seminar observed that health of the people of Pakistan could not be improved with the business-as- usual approach and stressed that the health system in the country needed to be transformed.

The seminar was part of an advocacy strategy of Paiman aimed at creating policy support for maternal and newborn health in Pakistan. It was specially designed for public representatives and senior bureaucrats.

Earlier, Paiman Chief Dr Nabeela Ali, in her welcome speech, briefed the participants on the project details and its progress.

She highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships, and community involvement in addressing the MNH issues in Pakistan. She also informed the participants how the policy makers and political leadership could support various interventions of Paiman project at the national, provincial and district level.

The seminar was attended by provincial health ministers, members of national and provincial assemblies and district Nazims belonging to the Paiman districts, in addition to health secretaries and other officials belonging to federal, provincial and district health departments. Mary Skarie, health, population and nutrition officer, USAID Pakistan, was also present on the occasion.