Shutdown Doesn’t Stop Grant for ‘Reproductive Health’ in Pakistan

USAID seeking applications for program that will cost $24.5 million

October 10, 2013

Though the government shutdown has reached its tenth day, the federal government has deemed the collection of grant proposals for the improvement of reproductive health of women in Pakistan "essential."

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) created a grant on Thursday seeking applicants to administer "family planning" in the south Asian country through its Maternal and Child Health (MCH) program.

"The MCH Program’s overall goal is to dramatically and sustainably improve health outcomes of women and children in target areas, and the MCH Program comprises five components: 1) Family Planning/Reproductive Health; 2) Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; 3) Health Communication; 4) Health Commodities; and 5) Health Systems Strengthening," the grant said.

The funding will provide "health communication" targeted at married women of reproductive age. The USAID is accepting applications through November and the project will ultimately cost $24.5 million.

The program will focus on changing "cultural norms" and "behavior change."

"The project will also play a lead role in generating demand for health products and services, utilizing innovative approaches drawn from commercial marketing and other behavior change-related disciplines," the grant said.

A more detailed description of the grant explains that mass media and mobile media will be used in Pakistan to "change individual behaviors and social norms," primarily in the Sindh and Punjab Provinces.

USAID credits its family planning programs for decreasing the number of children per family from 6 to 4.5 in 27 countries. The agency distributed 751 million condoms and 64.6 million oral contraceptives overseas in 2012.

Goals for this project include a 50 percent increase in the number of married women who wait at least two years between children, as well as making healthy spacing between pregnancies acceptable to married women, their husbands, and mothers-in-law.

The government shutdown on Oct. 1 has resulted in the ceasing of nonessential operations and the furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal employees.

USAID said that in the event of a shutdown it would "continue as many normal operations as possible," according to the agency’s contingency plan, released on Sept. 27.

New grants are not supposed to be issued while the government is closed, except in emergency situations, or if a project is considered critical to foreign affairs.

"Any new grants or cooperative agreements during the period of a lapse in appropriations, unless award of the grant or cooperative agreement is necessary to support emergency activities or is critical to the conduct of foreign affairs should not be awarded," the plan said.