Maternal and child health

September 21, 2019

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A MOTHER or her newborn child dies every 11 seconds in some part of the world, according to a new report published by affiliated agencies of the United Nations. Most of these deaths occur in regions where access to healthcare remains a challenge, even though globally since 2000 the rate of neonatal morbidity has halved and the number of maternal deaths has reduced by a third. Housing about a quarter of the world’s population, South Asia remains one of the most problematic regions with regard to maternal and child health. According to a Lancet report, stillbirth and neonatal mortality rates are about twice as high in South Asia as in sub-Saharan Africa. When it comes to Pakistan, unfortunately, the country has the highest rate of newborn deaths in the world and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the region. A 2018 report by Unicef stated that one in every 22 babies born in Pakistan dies within a month. The report further said that more than 80pc of newborn deaths would be preventable, given good nutrition, hygiene and access to well-trained midwives.

Adequate sanitation and the provision of adequate healthcare in Pakistan has always remained a challenge. However, in the past couple of decades, the problem has been compounded by a rapidly increasing population (Pakistan is the sixth-most populous country in the world), making the distribution of resources and doctors even more difficult than it was before. Unfortunately, it is characteristic of politics in Pakistan to pay little heed to the people’s actual needs — health, education and security. Successive governments introduce health schemes, usually towards the end of their tenures to gain popularity, but the overall approach towards subjects like health and education remains nonchalant. The PTI leadership has succeeded in making headlines by announcing the Sehat Insaf card early in its tenure, but that seems to be the extent of work put into improving the provision of healthcare. If the PTI-led government intends to bring some real change at all, it must shift its focus from ‘accountability for all’ to ‘healthcare for all’.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2019