ISLAMABAD: Notwithstanding the government’s repeated claims, health indicators in the country are on a downhill side.
A report released on Tuesday said Pakistan’s ranking in the ‘Mother Mortality Ratio (MMR)’ had slipped from 147th last year to 149. Moreover, except Afghanistan, all the countries in the region have much better health indicators than Pakistan.
The state of the world’s mothers report, “The urban disadvantage” was launched by Save the Children at a local hotel. The report focuses on the rapidly urbanising world and the poorest mothers and children who struggle even to survive despite the overall urban progress.
According to the report, Pakistan sustained high MMR of 276 per 100,000 live births and the under-five child mortality rate of around 89 deaths per 1,000 live births during the last a decade or so.
These statistics become more worrisome when the disparity between the rich and the poor in different urban areas was compared such as in Balochistan where the MMR was over 700.
In the urban areas, there is 2.5 times more MMR among the poor as compared to the rich. Poor children born in urban areas have more chances of death than their counterparts in the rural areas. The mortality rate among the under-five-year children born in a city like Karachi is 68 per 1,000 live births. One in every 170 women in Pakistan has the lifetime risk of maternal death.
With Mother Mortality Ratio of 276 per 100,000 live births, the country has slipped from 147 to 149th position, says report
The gross national income per capita is $1,360 and the participation of women in national government is 19 per cent. T he report said in two-third of the countries surveyed, the poorest urban children were at least twice as likely to die as the richest urban children. The disparity in child survival rates between the rich and the poor in urban areas widened over the past two decades.
The report said babies living in crowded and unhygienic slums lacked access to basic facilities such as safe drinking water, immunisation, mother and baby care during pregnancy and immediately after delivery, treatment for diarrhoea, pneumonia and other common illnesses.
In 60 per cent of the developing countries surveyed, city children living in poverty were more likely to die than those in the rural areas.
It was recommended that the final post-2015 framework should include a clear commitment to reduce child and maternal deaths with measurable targets. All governments must follow through on the nutrition for growth commitments and ensure that the World Health Assembly nutrition targets were met.
Members National Assembly (MNA) Rumina Khurshid Alam of the PML-N, said though after the 18th amendment health had become a provincial responsibility the federal government had taken a number of steps to address issues in the sector.
“Legislation is also being done to discourage customs, such as early marriages, which are responsible for the MMR,” she said.
Maiza Hameed, another PML-N legislator, said the situation was worrisome but despite war against terrorism and other issues the government had been taking steps to resolve health issues.
Arshad Mahmood, the deputy country director Save the Children Pakistan programme, said the report presented the first-ever global assessment of health disparities between the rich and the poor in cities.
“The post-2015 framework must make a commitment that no target will be considered to have been met unless it has been for all the social and economical groups,” he said.
When Dawn contacted Khalid Hussain Magsi, the chairman of the National Assembly standing committee on national health services, and asked him why Pakistan’s ranking had further fallen, he said there was a lack of dedication in the departments which remained busy in finding shortcuts to every issue.
“Moreover, after the 18th amendment, there is confusion between the federal and provincial departments. Unless we start admitting our weaknesses and take the ownership of the work the problems will not go away. However, I believe that with the passage of time things will improve,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2015