THE EARTH TIMES/MALAYSIA REPORT
JUNE 30-JULY 14, 1995
Malaysia: ONE COUNTRY’S WAY
Malaysia’s Raj Karim speaks out
By Ashali Varma
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—As director general of the National Population and Family
Development Board, Dr. Raj Karim’s main focus is to work with the national plan of action that takes into consideration the priorities of the Malaysian people concerning development.
“Basically we want to see Malaysia industrialized by the year 2020, while at the same time in maintaining our culture, our value systems and a caring society,” said Karim, “Progress of the country will be based on a strong and resilient family system, which is able to withstand the pressures of development.”
With 18 million people and a booming economy, the Malaysian reproductive health programs are more concerned with how to improve the quality of life for its people. “We encourage couples to space pregnancies for healthier children and we give information so that couples can make a decision. We focus on high risk groups, very young mothers or those above 40 years and help those with medical problems,” Karim said in a recent interview here. The delivery of health services in Malaysia cover the population and even rural clinics are integrated with child health and family planning services. Rural health facilities are free and even in urban are as the fees are low. In urban areas people have a choice between private clinics, government family planning clinics and clinics run by the Family Planning Association.
“Each group of villages has a health center with paramedical workers and a trained midwife. We also offer child care and immunization and for difficult cases there are district hospitals,” Karim added. A Specialist reproductive Research Center was opened in 1979. Dr. Mohammed Ismail who is the acting director of the clinic, said “We felt that there should be a clinic specializing in fertility, counseling for psycho-sexual problems and marital problems.”
The clinic, which is equipped with state of the art equipment, is fully computerized and has a sophisticated “In Vitro Fertilization” program. It also handles pap smears, cervical problems and infections. Initially funded by Unfpa and the World Bank, it is the only one of its kind in Kuala Lumpur. Unfpa has funded doctors to go abroad for specialized studies. Pap smears from family planning clinics are sent to this laboratory for evaluation.
Malysia has already put into action a plan following last year’s successful International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, says Karim, adding: “We would like to offer a reproductive health program at the primary health level. We are doing a needs assessment. Our role is to initiate and develop models that can be implemented by the Ministry of Health. We already have a comprehensive safe motherhood and child care program but we need to add counselling services,” Karim acknowledged.
The two areas where there will be a major thrust is family development programs which includes parenting, family health and how to strengthen the family and up scaling existing facilities to include reproductive health problems like menopause, prevention of cancer and HIV infections, as well as educating adolescents.