Strengthened union health facilities could transform Bangladesh’s maternal and newborn health situation

News Hour:

Strengthening the union level facilities to provide life-saving maternal and newborn care services can significantly improve facility-based deliveries and contribute to reducing maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity in Bangladesh.

The observation was made at a national meeting held on August 17th to share findings of a national assessment of union facilities across Bangladesh and to discuss the way forward in re-establishing these facilities as the primary level institutions for providing life-saving services for mothers and newborns.

The Directorate General of Family Planning (DGFP) with support from USAID’s MaMoni Health Systems Strengthening (MaMoni HSS) Project organized the meeting in the city’s Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The sharing followed a comprehensive assessment of the 4,461 union level facilities to determine their readiness to provide safe delivery and essential newborn care services.

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Mr. Mohammed Nasim, MP, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh speaking at the meeting * PHOTO: COURTESY

The union facilities, mostly Union Health & Family Welfare Centres (UH&FWCs), have a significant role to increase skilled attendance at birth and thereby contribute to end preventable child and maternal deaths. The assessment concluded that the majority of the union level facilities have the potential to provide these services with minor to moderate inputs to strengthen them. The assessment was undertaken to identify the prevailing state of these facilities so a plan could be worked to accelerate the strengthening of these facilities across the country.

Mr. Mohammed Nasim, MP, the Honorable Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOH&FW) of Bangladesh, and Chief Guest of the ceremony, reiterated his government’s commitment to the improvement of the health and welfare of mothers and children. Mr. Zahid Maleque, MP, the Honorable State Minister, MOH&FW also attended the event as a Special Guest.

Dr. Ishtiaq Mannan, Deputy Country Director, Save the Children in Bangladesh, presented the key findings of the assessment. The study suggests that 3,590 union level facilities are capable of providing delivery care services. Among these, 83 percent facilities could become round-the-clock delivery care centers with minor to moderate level of inputs.

He also highlighted the importance of a well-coordinated effort, involving multiple departments of MOH&FW as well as other ministries such as the Local Government Division of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, to improve the functioning and utilization of the union level facilities.

He suggested that strengthening of union level facilities need to be prioritized in the Fourth Health Nutrition Population Sector Programme 2016-2021 as these facilities have the potential to dramatically change the maternal and child health scenario of Bangladesh.

Professor Dr. Deen Mohd Noorul Huq, DG, DGHS, Ms. Melissa Jones, Director, Office of Population Health, Nutrition and Education (OPHNE), USAID, Dr. M. Iqbal Arslan, Secretary General, Bangladesh Medical Association and Mr. Syed Monjurul Islam, Secretary, MOH&FW, spoke at the meeting as Special Guests.

Mr. Mohammed Wahid Hossain, ndc, Director General, DGFP chaired the meeting. Earlier Dr. Mohammad Sharif, Director, MCH Services, DGFP, made a welcome speech while Mr. Joby George, Chief of Party, MaMoni HSS Project, thanked the participants. Dr. Fahmida Sultana, Deputy Director (MCH Services) unit, DGFP, made a presentation on the background of the assessment of the union level facilities carried out by the DGFP.

The meeting saw participation of around 200 participants representing the MOH&FW, DGFP, DGHS, UN agencies, other development partners, INGOs, professional bodies, and members of the print and electronic media.

Tareq Salahuddin

Dr. Tareq Salahuddin is an award-winning journalist and a Special Correspondent of News Hour. He is a Public Health Professional working in the development sector. Dr. Tareq, a medical graduate, is a member of Public Health Association of Bangladesh and a former member of the Governing Council and Policy Committee of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), a J2J Fellow on HIV/AIDS and a member of the International AIDS Society. To know more about Dr. Tareq, please visit his personal website (www.tareqsalahuddin.net) or simply Google his name.
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