With the grant, AKU will launch at least six large-scale projects aimed at reducing stillbirths and newborn deaths by 20 percent and deaths of children under the age of five from pneumonia and diarrhea by 30 percent. In partnership with public-sector programs and primary-care providers, the university will work to deliver proven interventions and improve the quality of care at healthcare facilities. The initiatives also will seek to empower adolescent girls — who have been largely ignored by public policy in Pakistan — through health and nutrition education in schools and communities.
According to AKU, an estimated four hundred and forty thousand mothers and children under the age of five died in Pakistan in 2015; a United Nations interagency report ranks Pakistan as having the world's third-highest rate of child deaths — of which 30 percent are due to pneumonia and diarrhea. Because the risks mothers and children face in rural Pakistan are especially high, AKU researchers will focus on fourteen largely rural districts in Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan, as well as on urban slums in Karachi, where the university is located.
"Because most of these deaths are due to illnesses or conditions that we know how to treat, they could be avoided," said Zulfiqar Bhutta, founding director of the AKU Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health. "But the question remains: in countries like Pakistan with limited resources, what are the best ways to make sure people actually receive the health care or health knowledge they need? That's what our Centre of Excellence focuses on, and this grant will allow us to expand our work in both scale and depth."