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Mother and child health programme to be a national policy 

Accelerating Mother and Child Health – 1,000 Day Plus, a programme to improve the health of mother and child in the country is expected to roll out from March next year.

The programme’s blueprint is readied and the ministry initially planned to start the programme this month. However, the ministry was yet to mobilise resources.

Besides working on securing the fund, the health ministry is also working on making the mother and child health programme a national policy. This, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said was because it was not captured in the health policy.

“We are proposing this innovative targeted new policy to enhance and promote health of mother and child in Bhutan,” Lyonpo said. “Through this policy, we hope to ensure that every child born in Bhutan has a fair chance to explore their potentiality.”

Implementing the programme would cost the government about Nu 238.97 million annually and about Nu 1.19 billion for five years.

An official with the health ministry said that the ministry is technically ready to roll out the programme. “We are also engaging World Bank support technically and certain discussions are happening.”

Lyonpo said that the programme’s financial assessment and sustainability are being assessed through a technical assistance from the World Bank. A team of experts are working on the financial viability, sustainability and implementation modality.

“Investment in our children is the top most priority for this government and we hope to achieve this through this policy,” Lyonpo said.

The programme’s immediate objective is to increase the uptake of maternal and child health services and to accelerate improvements in maternal and child health services.

The MCH (mother and child health) clinics will be the main delivery platform to implement the programme. The key target beneficiary population will be identified by health workers during the first registration of the pregnancy in the clinics.

The target beneficiary for the conditional cash transfer would be those mothers who are not entitled to six months paid maternity leave. Mothers in private and corporate organisations who do not get six months paid maternity leave are eligible for the conditional cash transfer.

They would be paid the national minimum wage. Lyonpo, in an earlier interview, said that the government is going with the minimum wage rate because as a mother, her job is to take care of the baby, which cannot be compared to a full-time job. “The idea is shared responsibility, as a mother you have the responsibility and so does the government.”

Lyonpo said that 1,000 golden days is a beautiful concept. There is strong evidence suggesting that this is the period to intervene in the life of a child but not a single country has done this at a national level.

“We are doing it as a nation and we are going to set an example,” she said. “The moment people say allowance, people think that with democracy, it is like a freebie a political party is giving. We are not giving away money just like that. We are putting in some conditions and there is a responsibility attached to that money.”

The success indicators of the programme in the 12th Plan includes increasing the complete eight ANC (antenatal check-up) visits from 26 percent to 40 percent, institutional delivery maintained above 90 percent, increase complete PNC (postnatal check-up) visits from 75 to 90 percent, and reduce newborn deaths from 21 per 1,000 live births to 13.2 by 2023.

The success of the programme will also be measured directly by maintaining immunization coverage of more than 95 percent, increasing exclusive breastfeeding rate from 51 to 56 percent and reducing stillbirth rate from 16 per 1,000 live births to 12.1 per 1,000 live births by 2023.

Dechen Tshomo

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