Over 30 parliamentarians from countries in WHO’s South-East Asia Region have committed to initiate measures to reduce preventable diseases and deaths among women, children and adolescents and also ensure their health and well-being. After a two-day South-Asia Regional Parliamentarians meeting, the participants committed to contribute towards increasing national budgets for health services for this key population, ensuring access to and financial protection for quality reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services within the provision of universal health coverage and deploying skilled workforce, especially in rural areas. “The health of women, children and adolescents is critical to sustainable development – economic as well as social development. This population should be at the center of our efforts to achieve universal health coverage – with quality healthcare provided to everyone, everywhere,” Regional director of WHO South-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said in a statement.
The parliamentarians also agreed to work towards introducing or amending and implementing laws to protect rights of women, children and adolescents, including preventing child marriage. Singh said in a message to the meeting that the parliamentarians, who represent all sections of the society and cut across all political formations, can have the much-needed influence in countries to make these changes happen. The region, which accounts for one-fourth of the global population, one-third of newborns, and has over 360 million adolescents, the largest number of young population ever, has been making progress in advancing health of women and children. Between 1990 and 2015, maternal mortality rates declined by 69 percent, deaths in children less than five years of age reduced by 67 percent and newborn deaths rates declined by 57 percent. The momentum picked up in recent years with the WHO declaring reducing preventable maternal, child and neonatal deaths as a flagship program in South-East Asia Region in 2014.
However, despite progress, there is much to be done, as everyday nearly 170 women and girls die in the region from preventable complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Nearly 3500 children die every day, mostly due to pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, with malnutrition underlying 45 percent deaths, Singh said. Strengthening midwifery care for the mothers and newborns, making emergency services and family planning services available, facilitating good nutrition, empowering women and giving them equal opportunities, and addressing inequalities in healthcare, are among the key measures that the parliamentarians are best positioned to address and promote, Singh said. – Business Standard