Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday inaugurated the ‘Mother and Child Support Program’ launched by the Social Protection Strategy Unit, CM Secretariatat Sindh CM House. The program was attended by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, provincial ministers, advisors, Special Assistants and senior officers of different departments, said a statement. Speaking on the occasion, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said the provincial government has made significant advances in improving the outreach and quality of primary health services aimed at maternal, new-born and child health. He added that these WHO-recommended services, such as ante-natal check-ups, safe delivery, postnatal care, child growth monitoring and immunization were available free of cost at public health facilities throughout the province. “This has resulted in improvements in key indicators such as institutional deliveries as a proportion of all rural births from 46 per cent to 62 per cent in the last 8 years,” he disclosed. Syed Murad Ali Shah said that there was still much further to go. “Many women from poor families in remote rural communities are unable to make use of existing public health services due to the loss of income from taking time off work, and travel costs,” he said and added that his government was is launching the Mother and Child Support Program in order to help women overcome economic barriers to making use of these essential services. “This is the first program which forms part of a comprehensive provincial social protection strategy being rolled out by the Sindh government in the coming months,” he announced. The ‘Mother and Child Support Program’ registers pregnant mothers at health facilities close to their homes, and provides them with cash support for each scheduled visit, including institutional delivery, Syed Murad Ali Shah said and added “the women are supported by Rs1,000 at each scheduled antenatal, postnatal and child healthcare visits, Rs 4,000 for institutional or healthcare facility-based delivery and Rs 2,000 for birth registration with NADRA.” He added the program aimed to help mothers and children avail WHO-recommended services. According to the chief minister, through the entire period covering the critical first 1,000 days starting from conception up to the child’s second birthday, each beneficiary will get Rs 20,000 throughout the continuum of care for the first 1,000 days. The chief minister said that as a pilot intervention, the program has been launched in two UCs of districts Tharparkar and Umerkot, each. “It is being scaled up in the two Talukas of the intervention districts and will be subsequently scaled up to the entire districts in the next 3 months,” he said and added the initiative would be further expanded to cover the entire province within the next two years. Syed Murad Ali Shah said, “at its peak, it aims to have over one million active beneficiaries, and targets rapid improvements in the health of mothers and children.” Sindh Minister for Health DrAzraFazalPechuho and CM’s Special Assistant HarisGazdar also spoke on the occasion.