QUETTA: The provincial “Newborn Survival Stra­tegy” to help improve preventable neonatal mortality rates in Balochistan was launched at a hotel in Quetta on Tuesday.

“Pakistan has the worst neonatal mortality rates in the world. Balochistan is also contributing quite a number of newborn deaths. Most of these newborns deaths can be prevented if mothers and newborns receive known, effective interventions and timely services,” said Mudassir Waheed Malik, Secretary Health Balochistan, while speaking at the launch event jointly organised by the Maternal and Newborn Child Health (MNCH) programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

“The government of Balochistan is committed towards the improvement of health status of the populations with a specific focus on maternal, newborn and children under five years of age, for this purpose provincial the MNCH programme is working closely with the development partners, and other sectors for improving the health status and preventing the preventable deaths,” he added.

“Maternal, newborn and child health indicators are the worst in the province. The maternal mortality ratio (when mothers die due to pregnancy or delivery complications) is 785/100,000 live births, neonatal mortality ratio (when a newborn dies within first 28 days of life) is 34/1,000 live births and the infant mortality ratio (under one-year deaths) is 66/1,000 live births. Moreover, deliveries assisted by skilled birth attendants are only 38 per cent,” said Dr Ismail Mirwani, provincial coordinator MNCH programme.

Neonatal, child health indicators are worst in the province

“I am very pleased that Unicef is contributing towards saving precious lives of newborns,” said Unicef’s country head Aida Grima at the event. “The first and foremost right of every newborn is to survive, to be held by the mother in her arms and feel that most important emotional connect. Therefore, the death of a child due to causes that are preventable is completely unacceptable. Yet, each day more than 70 newborns die in Pakistan due to preventable causes adding Pakistan to the list of countries which bears the burden of most neonatal deaths.”

It is important to emphasise that evidence-based cost-effective interventions are available and can help in reducing the major causes of newborn mortality. The training of public and private health service provides in the latest techniques and processes, improving clinical case management and ensuring regular supply of critical medicines and equipment, are the other important areas that must improve,” she added.

“It is our collective responsibility and Unicef stands by the government of Pakistan as a development partner to support its efforts, for helping mothers and newborns survive and thrive to grow to their full potential of life,” she said.

Balochistan Director General Health Dr Kamalan Gichki and MPA Shakila Naveed Dehwar also spoke at the event.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2020