Insufficient budget to rollout maternity allowance

Health minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo

LHAKPA TSHERING | Thimphu

The health ministry is unable to roll out one of the popular current government pledges to provide maternity allowance for 1,000 golden days of a child due to insufficient budget.

Health minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that the health ministry is unable to implement the conditional cash transfer aspects of the project since the funds for its implementation should be met from the recurring expenditure of the government.

Lyonpo said that the recurring budget has been significantly impacted by the effects of the pandemic on the national economy. “Everyone knows the country’s current economic situation,” she said.

“The monetary benefits have to be sourced from the recurring budget of the government,” she said, adding the initiative is ready to be implemented once the economic situation improves.

Lyonpo was responding to the Khatoed Laya Member of Parliament (MP) Tenzin at the ongoing National Assembly session to update the House on the status of the maternity allowance as pledged by the government.

He said the maternity allowance would encourage the population growth rate given that the growth rate of the country is very low.

“While several interventions have been taken towards addressing declining birth rate, it will have a negative impact on the country’s economy if monetary incentives are not given to encourage mothers to have two to three children,” he added.

Meanwhile, health minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said though the maternity allowances could not be implemented several initiatives have been carried out to strengthen the pre- and postnatal care of mothers and their child.

Lyonpo said that all 10 bedded hospitals have been equipped with ultrasound services to enhance the quality of mother and child health (MCH) related diagnostic care and services.

In addition, she said technology-based solutions such as iCTG have been adopted and implemented in remote health centers to enhance the timely detection of abnormalities during pregnancy.

Besides, the ministry also developed the operational guideline detailing the delivery platform, key target beneficiary population, disbursement modality, and eligibility criteria, amongst others to implement the policy objectives.

In addition, a robust communication strategy to inform the general public about the AMCHP and to improve the health-seeking behavior, knowledge and practices of MCH services have been developed.

Considering the importance of improving the lives of the children, the government accorded the highest priority to this initiative and is currently working with development partners and relevant stakeholders for support.

The cabinet in 2019 approved the policy on accelerating the mother and child health program (AMCHP) – 1,000 Days Plus to provide all eligible mothers Nu 39,000 each from the day of conception until the child attends the age of two years.