Saima wrote a letter to the Editor of the Daily Times, the biggest English-language newspaper in Pakistan. Her letter was published on 30 September...
Sir: Many of us are acquainted with these words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): "Be at your mother's feet and there is paradise". This basic precept forms the foundation of a new campaign on maternal health by the Muslim Agency for Development and Enterprise (MADE in Europe), which seeks to raise awareness so as to facilitate the improvement of health and maternal care provisions in countries such as Pakistan and elsewhere in the world.
The issue of maternal health has been somewhat sidelined by charitable organisations working in Pakistan and European Muslim agencies alike. Mothers are pretty much neglected when it comes to NGO/charity policies. The statistics paint a dire picture with up to 1,000 mothers dying unnecessarily in pregnancy and childbirth everyday across the world and seven million women left with pregnancy related disabilities and injuries. Pakistan is consistently listed as having some of the most harrowing statistics on maternal health and mortality. According to MADE, almost one in 89 women will die of maternal causes and 20 percent of all deaths of women of childbearing age, is attributed to poor maternal care. Investment into accessing adequate medical care, family planning education and trained health workers and midwives, would do much to turn the tide; simply put, it is not expensive to save lives — the price we pay for the consequences of substandard maternal care is markedly higher.
Regrettably, Pakistan is rife with stories of poignant struggles in pregnancy, during and post-childbirth. Unfortunately, there are many offshoots to inadequate maternal care, ranging from an underweight prevalence in children, immunisation, nutritional deficiencies and education prospects to disabilities and life long injuries for the mother and her child, all of which serve to perpetuate an already perilous situation. The onset of annual monsoon seasons and recurrent floods is undermining progress especially given that the number of pregnant women fleeing their homes runs into the hundreds of thousands. Improvements have been made in maternal care in Pakistan and mortality rates have likewise become better, but they still fall short of international standards such as those stipulated in the Millennium Development Goals.
Despite the launch of a national maternal and neo-natal child health programme by the Pakistani government, more needs to be done. Women are the nucleus of societies. They are revered in Islam for their struggles — if the Quran itself recognises their sacrifices surely we should be more eager to do so too. The issue of maternal healthcare cannot be ignored. The empowerment and education of women and their families is a countrywide concern. Muslim communities in Pakistan ought to feel a sense of duty to ensure that maternal and neonatal well-being is at the zenith of healthcare policymaking.