Economy, yet again the culprit

Economy, yet again the culprit

Health Minister says conditional cash transfer could not be implemented due to the state of the country’s economy

There is just about one year left for the present government’s tenure, and one of the most important pledges of the government during the elections in 2018 from the health sector was to offer maternity allowance. However, it is yet to be realized.

The question was asked by the Member of Parliament (MP), Tenzin, of Khatoed-Laya constituency to the minister of health yesterday (November 25, 2022).

Underlining the importance of maternity leave for both mother and child, MP Tenzin pointed out three main reasons to provide the allowances, namely; the income having reduced in the society during the post-covid time; enhancing human resources in the 21st century and the creation of fit and talent-oriented youth for fulfilling the National Vision, through good nutrition.

The health minister said that all other plans under the Accelerated Mother Child Health Policy (AMCHP) had been completed except for the conditional cash transfer. She stated that it is due to the country’s current economic position.

“Because the AMCHP is a policy, there is no supplementary or separate budget for it; rather, the AMCHP budget must be met through the government’s recurrent budget,” she said, adding that everyone knows the state of the Nation’s economy. Lyonpo underlined that everything from the health side would be implemented as soon as the economy improves.

She also added that due to the increased number of necessary recurring activities caused by the current economic climate, the health ministry needs additional domestic revenue in order to implement the maternity allowance for 1,000 golden days of a child.

According to the Health Minister, a detailed plan called AMCHP has been introduced under the Maternity Policy, which includes two key features, pre and after natal care for the child.

“Under prenatal care, the ministry of Health has installed an ultrasound facility for pregnant women in every 10 bedded Basic Health Care unit (BHU),” she said, adding that because Bhutan lacks gynecologists, they have cardiotocography (ICTG) with 55 sets to supplement the existing conventional cardiotocography in hospitals across the country to improve mother and child health care.”

Under the postnatal care, the MoH has facilitated a Mother Child health book (MCH) which has a detailed screening tool book for the child.

“Previously, we just provided vaccines for the child after birth, but now, for the first seven days after birth, we are screening everything, the impairment, hearing difficulty, and whether or not the child is responding,” said the minister.

Additionally, the MoH has also launched the Sprinklers project, which, according to the minister, would give children a balanced diet by giving them a medicine to sprinkle on their meals as soon as they begin eating solid food.

Meanwhile, the 1,000 Days Plus policy, commonly known as the maternity policy, was put into effect in August 2019, but due to lack of funding from the government, the program had to be postponed until March 2020.

To commemorate their 1,000 Golden Days, the policy stipulated that each eligible mother would receive Nu 39,000 from the day of conception until their child turned two.

The policy’s initial implementation had the goal of accelerating the accomplishment of mother and child health outcomes by increasing the uptake of MCH services in a holistic and all-encompassing manner.

All women and their children will profit from the program or intervention in the long run and not just while the current administration is in office.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu