JICA AND UNRWA START DIGITIZATION OF THE MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH HANDBOOK IN JORDAN
13 July 2016
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) have started to work on the digitization of the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Handbook in the form of a mobile application called the ‘E-MCH Handbook’. The Memorandum of Understanding was jointly signed on Tuesday, 12 July, by Shokichi Sakata, the Chief Representative of the JICA Jordan Office, and Dr. Akihiro Seita, the UNRWA Director of Health, at UNRWA Headquarters in Amman.
The joint project aims to develop a mobile software application for the MCH Handbook to be used by Palestine refugee mothers in Jordan with smartphones. The E-MCH Handbook application will be connected to the Agency’s e-Health system and make it possible for mothers to access their health records online and receive improved and modernized health services. In addition, the application will enable them to get useful and educational health information through their smartphones.
JICA has been promoting the MCH Handbook around the world, and it has already been introduced in more than 10 countries. UNRWA started utilizing the MCH Handbook in 2010, with the help of JICA. Today, it is being used in all five of the Agency’s fields of operations by pregnant Palestine refugee mothers – more than 90,000 each year. This will be the first project to digitize the MCH Handbook.
“For many decades, the UNRWA health programme has been doing well concerning maternal and child health, and this is reflected through several relevant indicators that we monitor regularly,” said Dr. Akihiro Seita. “This is the sixth year since UNRWA introduced the MCH Handbook to be used by Palestine refugee mothers as a take-home medical record for their health and the health of their children below 5 years of age. This handbook has proven to be a valuable tool that mothers use every time they attend our health centres to get a service for themselves or for their children. We hope that digitizing this booklet will enable us to make a leap towards improved health services and to be a model for other health systems that currently use this booklet in hard copy to follow.”
Shokichi Sakata, Chief Representative of JICA Jordan Office, said: “Family health is the backbone of community health and the importance of maternal and child health is significantly recognized as the main component of family health. As many Palestinians mothers in Jordan are in need of awareness and guidance on the importance of maternal and child health, JICA developed the MCH Handbook, which benefits visitors of UNRWA health centres in refugee camps. Many believe that this MCH handbook helped in maintaining the health of Palestinian mothers and children in the camps and even helped in saving their lives. Launching the electronic version of the MCH handbook will help widen the base of beneficiaries among Palestinians refugees and keep pace with the technological advances and communication gadgets that most people in Jordan use, such as smartphones and tablets. The mother (or the husband) will receive valuable tips and instructions that precisely the age of the child, and they will also receive a reminder to visit the doctor in a timely manner.”
Dr. Akiko Hagiwara, JICA Senior Advisor for Health Promotion and Reproductive Health, said: “The E-MCH Handbook will expand the value of the MCH Handbook for Palestinian refugees further. It will improve health services and communication among health workers, mothers and fathers to share information and to work together to protect and promote the health and well-being of mothers and children.” He added, “To my surprise, through our observation at UNRWA clinics, most of the mothers are willing to keep a hard-copy MCH handbook together with the e-booklet. We would like to explore with UNRWA how best we can serve mothers, children and families by utilizing the E-MCH Handbook and share it with other countries. ”
JICA has long been a valued donor to UNRWA. They provide crucial support to the improvement of livelihoods in Palestine refugee camps, while JICA volunteers contribute as teachers in UNRWA schools in subject areas such as art, music and physical education to support the emotional health and well-being of Palestine refugee children.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall, projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 74 million. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance .
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