A panel discussion titled “Improving Women’s Health in South Asia

A panel discussion titled “Improving Women’s Health in South Asia: Working towards achieving SDG 3 and FP2020 Goals” was held in a local hotel in Karachi during the 17th Bienniel Society of Obstetricians & Gynecologists of Pakistan (SOGP) conference. This session was supported by Sukh Initiative, a multi-donor funded, family planning project serving one million underserved population in peri-urban areas of Karachi, Sindh.

The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Farid Midhet, a leading family planning expert. The panelists include prominent experts of Family Planning including Dr. Haris Ahmed, – Head of Sukh Initaitive,Dr. Talib Lashari – Technical Advisor CIP, Dr. Razia Korejo – renowned Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Dr. Azra Ahsan, a leading Obstetrician & Gynecologist and Dr. Laila Shah – Program Director, Sukh Initiative at Jhpiego.

Responding to a question by Dr. Farid Midhet regarding Sukh’s life cycle based approach to improve women’s health, Dr. Haris Ahmed shared that Sukh is a life cycle based approach reaching out to youth and people seeking Family Planning services in the target areas; educates them about reproductive health to be responsible adults. Family planning is a reality that should be seen as a part of the overall health environment and Sukh has demonstrated success by practicing this approach. He further thanked SOGP for giving Sukh this platform and encouraged such learning interactions for diverse audience.

Dr. Azra Ahsan shared her knowledge about the key enabling factors that can significantly improve women health in Pakistan. She emphasized that reaching out to hospitals at all levels, accessing health care providers, advocating and reinforcing that Family Planning is their responsibility is a key solution. There is a strange disconnect between need of country and education imparted in medical colleges in Pakistan. We need to focus that every women who comes to hospital for delivery, should go with a baby and a suitable, appropriate Family Planning method.

Dr. Talib Lashari shared progress and key achievements of CIP to strengthen Family Planning. CIP was initiated in March 2017 and a lot of efforts were made including Sindh FP2020 taskforce lead by Dr. Azra Pechuho. He appreciated support from all partners including Sukh Initiative and Jhpiego. Sukh’s approach for Family Health Day has helped to break the traditional barriers. Through mobilization efforts and client mapping practices by Sukh, there is more awareness and acceptance to practice Family Planning. CIP has successfully covered its initial target of 11 districts and have now reached out to 29 districts across Sindh.

He emphasized that CIP is actively working to improve women health in Sindh and contributing to achieve SDG goal 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and FP2020 goals.

Dr. Laila Shah shared her perspective on the importance of service delivery in maternal health including antenatal, partum and post-partum care. She shared her experiences of Sukh Initiative and mentioned that through concentrated efforts of Sukh Initiative, women in the target communities were well receptive to postpartum family planning services. She mentioned about the significance of capacity development and positive experience of training of mid-level along with key success of task shifting.

Concluding the panel discussion on a positive note, Dr. Farid Midhet shared that every women should have organized access to Family planning in Pakistan. We need to factor in the recent changes and development in the health care sector. By 2020, we will try that every women should have access to family planning services. Dr. Midhet further emphasized that achieving FP2020 goals is not impossible if we all work together.

The panel discussion was followed by experts’ presentation of Family Planning related projects and experiences. Dr. Tabina Sarosh from Pathfinders gave a presentation on ‘Exploring provider’s Behavior, Attitudes & Barriers to address biases using HCD Research Segmentation & Prototyping in Pakistan’. Professor Rubina Sohailpresented her work on ‘Moving towards SDG3 in Punjab’. Dr. Farhana Shahid from Jhpiego presented ‘MCHIP experience in rural Sindh’. Dr. Azra Saeed presented her work on’Multi-disciplinary approach to emergency management’. This was followed by Dr. Shehla Baqai’s presentation on ‘The challenges of emergency response & preparing for disasters, Medical Perspectives for women’.

This session was attended by diverse audience which included Family Planning experts, health care professionals and students, Government dignitaries and civil society representatives. The session concluded with a token of thanks from Sukh Initiative for all the panelists and presenters. The audience appreciated the learnings shared and Sukh’s valuable contribution to health ssector in Pakistan. 

The Sukh Initiative is Pakistan’s first urban family planning project launched in November 2013 with assistance from The Aman Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The project goal is to increase prevalence of modern contraceptives by 15 percentage points, from the baseline, in selected one million, underserved peri-urban population of Karachi, Sindh. The project has successfully completed its 4 years of implementation and have demonstrated remarkable results by achieving 9 out of fifteen percentage of modern contraceptive prevalence rate in selected areas of Korangi; Landhi; Bin Qasim; and Malir.

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