THOUGH numerous healthcare woes plague Pakistan, the problem of stillbirths has largely failed to register in the way it should.
However, as a number of studies published recently by the respected medical journal The Lancet show, Pakistan has the highest stillbirth rate in the world.
As defined by the editors of the publication, stillbirth occurs when “a child being alive at the beginning of labour” dies “for entirely preventable reasons”.
According to the data, last year, while the number of stillborn children was higher in India and Nigeria, Pakistan had the highest rate of stillbirths in the world.
Despite this alarming situation, local medical experts say that the issue of stillbirth is mostly missing from national health priorities.
A number of factors contribute to stillbirths — mostly linked to the poor quality of healthcare. As with other miseries, the poor and the marginalised in this country are affected the most.
While the picture is indeed bleak, with determined interventions things can be turned around on this front. Medical professionals point out that preventing stillbirth must be linked to the overall strategy of improving maternal and neonatal health nationally.
Providing women antenatal care and monitoring the labour process can bring the stillbirth rate down considerably.
However, a difference can only be made when health authorities at the centre and in the provinces first realise that stillbirth is a major concern, and that it can be addressed if the right actions are taken.
Pakistan’s unenviable ranking on this count can also be taken as an indictment of the poor state of healthcare infrastructure overall.
Thanks to the state’s neglect of public health concerns over decades, ailments and issues that can otherwise be eradicated remain major killers.
Unless we put into practice our pledges to improve mother and child health, the situation is unlikely to improve. It is hoped that officialdom takes notice of these grim figures and that the next time data is collected on stillbirths in Pakistan, there will visible and vast improvement.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2016