GIVEN Pakistan’s weak socioeconomic indicators, it is astonishing that political leaders continue to duck their task of restructuring the country’s healthcare system and making access to it equitable and affordable. This is very obvious in the case of Sindh where most health facilities are on the brink of a crisis. Political missteps are partly at fault — for instance, the provincial government has fallen short of allocating resources and building consensus for implementation plans. One such case reported in this newspaper yesterday is that of a virtually non-functional mother and child health facility in Malir located on the outskirts of Karachi. Established in 1984, this maternity centre lacks resources and the technical capacity to cater to a local population of around 30,000. It even lacks running water and electricity. Despite the influx of international aid for maternal and child health, the government has failed to equip and maintain this clinic located on the periphery of a bustling city. The authorities should ensure this centre is up and running with medicine and staff to aid nearby communities. If anything, this is a damning indictment of the PPP — which has always claimed to be a champion of the poor and vulnerable.
At the crux of this stasis is the state’s inability to prioritise quality maternal and child healthcare. Over time, this leads to inequities at all levels. Child stunting and malnutrition, for instance, and are responsible for the death of thousands of children under the age of five in Pakistan each year. On the other hand, evidence shows that skilled birth attendance and maternal education reduces maternal mortality. Lady Health Workers play a vital role, given their ability to reach rural communities and offer basic healthcare and instructions in family planning. To end, only brave political commitment that is sustainable beyond electioneering will bring quality healthcare to the masses.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2018