Accelerating Mother and Child Healthcare Allowance kept on hold: PM

The Accelerating Mother and Child Health Policy, 1000-Day Plus, was expected to start from August 2021, after its approval by the Cabinet on 6 January with Nu 1.8 billion (bn) allocation for the next five years.

The new package is not just for the 6 months of breastfeeding, but it goes up to the first 1000 golden days of a child’s life.

During meet the press conference held at the Raven House in Thimphu on 31 December, the Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said investing in mother and child is a priority, as it will greatly benefit in building the human capital of the country.

The Health Minister said the program is not just for onetime intervention, but also to be made for all times to come to benefit the children and their children in the future.

The Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said the program could have been rolled out anytime if it was just for a five-year tenure.

The PM explained that roughly there will about 11,000 births per year in the five years and less than Nu 1.8 bn would be enough. For two to three years from now, Nu 200 to Nu 250 million will be more than enough for the project, but the government is concerned about what will happen to the project after that. 

The PM said the government has regularized the program, but external funding will not work as it needs to be covered from the domestic revenue, and the country is almost falling short of mandatory recurring budget.

There is not enough budget for the on-going activities, therefore, the government cannot think for other recurring activities. For the time being, the policy will be kept on hold, the PM added.

“We are having constraints because of the pandemic and the economic conditions. These are very reasons why it has been delayed,” said the Health Minister.

However, the health ministry has in place MCH tracking system, so from the moment when a woman gets pregnant, she is actually traced through the system. The health ministry has introduced first antenatal care (ANC). Earlier, pregnant mothers would visit only four times, but now the ministry is encouraging mothers to visit eight times so that both mother and child gets a comprehensive services during the eight visits.

Meanwhile, the ministry has rolled out sprinkles project two years back, as micro-nutrient deficiency under five is a huge concern for the nation, and the ministry has been providing multi-vitamins to infants.

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