KARACHI  - Mufti Abdur Razzaque of the Tanzeem-ul-Ehsaan has supported the use of birth planning and spacing as it insures not only maternal and newborn health, but also allows a mother to fully cater to the needs of her existing children. Maternal and newborn health remains an ignored state agenda in the country.  Pakistan’s maternal mortality rate is the highest in South Asia. 12,000 mothers die during childbirth each year, says a press statement issued Sunday.  Mufti Razzaque stressed on the importance of family planning as a way to prevent maternal and newborn deaths adding that “Islam has made marital relations the basis of survival and evolution of human race. Hazrat Jabir (RA) said we would give space in birth and when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) came to know this, he did not stop us.” “Children’s grooming and care is likely to suffer due to persistent births in a family especially when there is only one woman in a house taking care of several children. Under these circumstances it becomes extremely important to meet educational and other expenses of children. Islam allows interval in these circumstances,” Razzaque added. “If a man wants to save his wife from all these troubles out of his love for her then he is also allowed to adopt methods of family planning. Interval between the births of children used to be a method of birth spacing or family planning at that time. Today modern era has many types of birth spacing and clerics have justified all of them,” Razzaque continued. While the acts of terrorism get more media coverage and national attention, no value is assigned to the millions of mothers and newborns who lose their lives every year. Newborns fare no better and Pakistan has one of the highest neonatal deaths in the region - an estimated 298,000 newborns dying annually.  Babies who survive the crucial 40 days after birth often remain in poor health. Many die before their 5th birthday (Pakistan’s under-5 mortality was 424,377 in 2010). This is no surprise with a country that allocates 0.23 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health. Reasons, besides financial, that contribute to maternal and newborn deaths include lack of specialized care during delivery, complications of pregnancy and lack of appropriate rest period between pregnancies. Neonatal and under-5 deaths are mostly due to infections, preterm births and birth asphyxia. What is most ironic is that these poor health indicators are easily avoided. One of the most effective ways of preventing maternal, neonatal and under-5 deaths is family planning and birth spacing. Birth spacing, or inter-pregnancy gap, is important as it directly affects maternal and newborn health.