Organised by Naveed Khurram (2012 Professional Fellow from Pakistan, Anglican Alliance)

This year, the Commonwealth Day theme was, ‘Delivering A Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’, and to mark the day, Commonwealth Alumnus, Naveed Khurram, organised an event for the women of his local community on Sunday 8 March 2020. The event titled, ‘Healthier the Mother, Healthier the Society’ was held at the Kunri Christian Hospital, Kunri District, Umerkot Sindh in Pakistan. A total of 100 participants attended including pregnant and lactating mothers, skilled medics and paramedics, and traditional birth attendants.

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country with a population of over 220 million. The health indicators are not favourable, and the complications are compounded with other health problems, such as malaria, acute communicable diseases including tuberculosis, and respiratory infections. Reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health is glaring and complicated in this part of the world, and this reflects the women’s health status. Women are an important and productive member of a good society however, the mortality and morbidity rates for mother and children are high.

If we wish to bring prosperity in the lives of the people, then we must give women due respect and rights. A good society discourages all forms of exploitation, denomination, injustice and inequity. It is a dilemma that in Pakistan, women empowerment is a deep and complicated issue. It is believed that a well-informed pregnant woman will deliver a healthy baby who is physically and mentally strong in turn, contributing to the development of a good and responsive society. It is important for Pakistan, as a Commonwealth country, to connect the local community with innovative ways to reduce maternal and child mortality rates and transform the health status of women and children to achieve overall sustainable development goals.

Spreading awareness

The event was organised to sensitise pregnant women and lactating mothers about maternal and child health. The objective of the events was to spread awareness amongst women by educating them about health measures, eating healthy food and keeping herself happy in a conducive environment. The event comprised of speeches by renowned medical practitioners and a play on eclampsia and the importance of breastfeeding.

The special guests invited for the event included the Rt. Rev Kaleem John, Bishop of Hyderabad Diocese, Church of Pakistan, Mrs Kaleem John, wife of Rt. Rev Kaleem John, Dr Philomena Drago-Johnson, Consultant Surgeon, St. Teresa’s Hospital, Mirpurkhas, Mr Paul Johnson, Administrator, Love and Trust Hospital Chachro, Dr.Dalpat Roy, Paediatrician, Civil Hospital Mithi, Dr Fouzia Chughtai, MD Director, Kunri Christian Hospital, and Dr Saima Kashif, Kunri Christian Hospital.

Some of the key organisers from the Kunri Christian Hospital included Mr Mushtaq Hussain, Mr Govind Ram, Mr Sawai Sr. Shehnaz Noor, students of Community Midwifery School of Rural Health Care Project DoH CoP, and other team members.

The program started with the recitation of the Holy Quran and a prayer by KCH staff, followed by the national anthem. Naveed Khurram then thanked the speakers, attendeesand guests for participating in the event. He extended his thanks to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK, the British Council, and Diocese of Hyderabad for supporting him in organising this important seminar. He briefed attendees about the CSC and the support rendered to him to pursue his Commonwealth Professional Fellowship.

The event included a number of presentations covering topics related to women’s health, pregnancy, and childcare. Speakers included:

  • Dr Philomena Drago Johnson, ‘Importance of Women’s Health During Pregnancy’
  • Dr Dalpat Roy, ‘Early Childcare and Development’
  • Dr Fouzia Chughtai, ‘Mother A Silent Architect of a Good Society’
  • Rev. Kaleem John and Mrs. Bishop Kaleem John, ‘Need for a government legislature to empower women’

Maintaining good health during pregnancy

In her keynote speech, Dr Philomena Drago Johnson addressed the importance of women’s health during pregnancy. She stated that eclampsia and anaemia are the most common diseases during pregnancy and urged pregnant women to maintain a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, along with low-fat dairy products. She emphasised that quality antenatal care is the legitimate right of every pregnant woman and advised pregnant women to visit health care providers at least eight times during their pregnancy for a positive pregnancy experience.

Following the keynote presentation, Dr Dalpat Roy spoke on early childcare and development. He discussed the importance of breastfeeding, healthy baby breathing, and immunisation. He emphasised that infants should be breastfed within one hour of birth and  encouraged pregnant women to include folic acid and iron supplements in their diet. He shared that 80% of the child’s mind develops within the first two years and urged attendees to provide immunisation to their children to keep them safe from communicable diseases that may impact a child’s development in their early years.

An architect of good society

Dr Fouzia, Director of Kunri Hospital, presented on the topic titled ‘Mother a silent architect of a good society’. She emphasised on social determinants of health and focused on improving daily living conditions. She stressed that an educated mother is the foundation of a good society who builds the personality of a child by adopting to good practices. Dr Fouzia indicated the importance of empowering women about the theory of early childhood development as it is essential to invest in the early years of life. She said it is important for immediate family members to support pregnant women and lactating mothers in order to have a healthy society. Dr Fouzia, ended the talk by urging health care provider to convince parents to stop sex-based abortion. Following this speech, the students of midwifery institution, presented a stage drama on eclampsia and the importance of breastfeeding.

Rt. Rev Kaleem John and Mrs Bishop Kaleem John addressed attendees through a recorded message. They stressed that government legislation is direly needed to empower women. They thanked the CSC and Kunri Christian Hospital team for organising the seminar and engaging midwives, nurses, doctors and KCH staff members. Following the presentation, the Health Environment Link Initiative team at KCH gave plant saplings to all attendees.

Attendees enjoyed the event and captured the key message from the talks, and especially regarding eclampsia and the importance of breastfeeding. It is hoped that the pregnant women and lactating mothers incorporate a healthy diet, practice safe childcare and development, and receive the necessary support from their family members and trained healthcare workers.

Photos from the event are available on CSC Flickr