SPEECH AT THE FOUNDATION STONE LAYING CEREMONY OF THE AGA KHAN MATERNITY HOME - 1983-03-18
Honourable Minister, Dr Manji, Members of the Central and Zonal Health Boards, Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to begin today by expressing my very warm and deep gratitude to the President and government of Pakistan and the government of Sind for a most, most generous welcome to Pakistan and today to Hyderabad.
My family and I have been deeply touched by the kindness, courtesy and the welcome of the people of Hyderabad and as you know our family's association and our community's association with Sind is historic in every sense.
I am deeply happy to be here today for a ceremony which marks a significant step forward in the development of the Aga Khan Health Services in Pakistan, and I am especially happy that not only my wife, but also my brother and my sister have been able to join me.
This Jubilee visit to Pakistan is proving both a momentous and a joyful one and it is fitting that other members of my family should be with me to lay the foundation stone for a maternity home which, as Dr Manji has reminded us, will follow through health care policies initiated over sixty years ago by my grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah.
Then, as now, the care of mothers and young children was of paramount importance in planning for health care. They are the predominant proportion of Pakistan's population and, sadly, suffering from illness is also predominant. In our Central Health Board's current five-year plan, great stress was laid on helping the government of Pakistan to achieve its objectives of lowering infant and maternal mortality rates and of training auxiliary health personnel.
Our maternity home programme is a key element in this strategy, and we are profoundly grateful that the government has allocated us the site for this construction, and that the government of Sind has taken such a keen interest in the project. I would also like to add the army to my thanks and all the authorities and the government of Sind because this institution represents a genuine effort of all people to see a worthy new institution come into existence here in Hyderabad.
That a new maternity home is needed here can hardly be questioned. Our present one has a 100% occupancy rate in its beds, but it is old and not capable of being adequately renovated or rebuilt. Hyderabad is a rapidly growing city. A much larger, better designed facility with a strong out-patient service will both meet a real need and, we anticipate, generate a new demand as more families appreciate the benefits it offers. The statistics related to the new Maternity Home have already been given in detail. I would simply like to make three points today about the objectives which the Home should set itself when it opens, Inshallah, in 1986.
First, it should seek to provide the highest possible standards of medical care. Even in an urban centre like Hyderabad, too few expectant mothers appreciate the value of giving birth under medical supervision. I hope they will also make use of the diagnostic centre which will identify risks to their children's health.
My second point leads on from this. Out-reach services can do a great deal to improve standards of health care. This will be more than just a conventional Maternity Home. It will be the hub for a variety of activities, bringing medical service and knowledge into peoples' homes. Helping a mother deliver her baby in the world should involve far more than just sending a midwife to attend her. An essential point of both ante- and post-natal care should be advising mothers both before and after pregnancy. Prevention of disease is always better than cure.
Thirdly, the Maternity Home will have a Midwifery Training Centre, so helping increase the number of trained personnel available to the country as a whole. I hope too that, in the years ahead, nursing and medical students from the Aga Khan University will obtain some of their field experience by working here.
Thus the Aga Khan Maternity Home, Hyderabad, will establish a new concept. As well as handling maternity cases, it will be a focal point of health education, of primary health care and of training. We hope it will set an example for other institutions to reflect over and eventually to emulate.
I would like to conclude by reminding you of one all-important fact. The Maternity Home will, we hope, further the health care aims of the government and will be open to all-comers. But its construction and operation would be difficult without the backing of those volunteers whose selflessly given time and efforts supports our Aga Khan Committees, our Boards and our day-to-day organization. These volunteers, young and old, are the lifeblood of the services we provide. We must never forget their contribution to our network, and I think it right simply to emphasize to you today that the fact that we took the decision to go ahead with this centre in Hyderabad was due to a survey carried out by volunteers in Pakistan, and which reconfirmed the very great importance of child care in the future of the people of Pakistan. Inshallah, the volunteers, the donors, who have so generously promised a large proportion of the necessary funds, and the government will find in three years time that an institution has been created of which Hyderabad can be proud.