Although the Ministry of Health (MoH) completed the required plans and preparations for rolling out the maternity allowance and was supposed to implement the maternity allowance last year, but it was kept on hold over funding issues.
During the Question-Hour session in the National Assembly, the Member of Parliament (MP) Tenzin of Khatoed Laya requested the Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo on the status of maternity allowance.
Dasho Dechen Wangmo said in order to strengthen the sovereignty of the country, it is imperative to invest in mother and child. Upon doing a study on it, the government found out that there is a huge gap in health services for both mother and child. Therefore, the government initiated the first 1,000 golden days of a child’s life, and for that matter, the government initiated Accelerating Mother and Child Health Program.
Currently, there are ultrasound services in BHUs, also introduced integral cardiotocography to improve the mother and child healthcare services. And in post-natal care, in the past, it was just an immunization, the child’s weight and measuring height, but now, right after childbirth, there is a disability screening in place. The health ministry also launched the Sprinkles, a micronutrient powder, which can be easily mixed at home to make food more nutritious for children.
According to the policy, the maternity allowance must come from the recurrent budget, so that is why they are not able to do the conditional cash transfer at the moment. Otherwise, the health ministry already has the numbers of pregnant mothers in the 20 dzongkhags through Mother and Child Tracking System.
Meanwhile, for all the eligible women, the allowance was to be disbursed to the women’s bank accounts after every required visit made to the health facility for an antenatal checkup, institutional delivery and postnatal visit. The allowance was planned to be released in 21 tranches from the first booking of pregnancy till the child reaches 24 months.
The Cabinet on 6 January 2020 had approved Nu 1.8 billion for the ‘Accelerated Mother and Child Healthcare Allowance,’ for the next five years.