ISLAMABAD: Countries in the region are far ahead of Pakistan in terms of health indicators and even Afghanistan is ahead of it, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan.
It said the Covid-19 pandemic had tested the country’s health infrastructure and identified needs for more investment in the sector, especially to improve diagnostic facilities, disease surveillance, prevention and spread, training of health personnel and their protection from pandemic, vaccine development, upgrading healthcare infrastructure, emergency rooms, intensive care units, isolation wards and public awareness.
Life expectancy increased from 66.9 years in 2017 to 67.3 years in 2019 but is still behind other countries. The infant mortality rate, maternal mortality and population growth rate have decreased in the last three years.
A comparative position of the regional countries in health indicators development shows abysmal picture as infant mortality rate (IMR), per 1,000 live births, in Pakistan is 55.7, in Afghanistan 46, in India 28, Bangladesh 25, China seven and in Sri Lanka six.
Covid-19 pandemic identified needs for more investment in health sector
The under-five mortality rate shows that in Pakistan 69 deaths are reported in 1,000 children against 60 in Afghanistan, 34 in India, 30 in Bangladesh, 28 in Bhutan and seven each in China and Sri Lanka.
However, in terms of population growth, Pakistan is a bit better compared to Afghanistan. Pakistan has recorded 1.9pc growth rate compared to 2.3pc in Afghanistan, 1pc each India and Bangladesh, 0.6pc in Sri Lanka and 0.4pc in China.
The national health infrastructure comprises 1,282 hospitals, 5,472 Basic Health Units, 670 Rural Health Centres, 5,743 dispensaries, 752 maternity and child health centres and 412 TB centres while the total availability of beds in these health facilities are estimated at 133,707. There are 245,987 registered doctors, 27,360 registered dentists and 116,659 registered nurses in these facilities together.
Health expenditures have increased gradually since 2011-12 - by 14.3pc - from Rs421.8 billion in 2018-19 to Rs482.3 billion in 2019-20. Public sector expenditure on health was estimated at 1.2cp of the GDP in 2019-20 compared to 1.1pc in 2018-19.
In almost every country, healthcare delivery has been disrupted by the mistaken initial assumption that health systems would quickly win the fight against Covid-19.
“Now, it is clear that the pandemic will persist much longer than anticipated. It was estimated that at least half of the world’s 7.8 billion people lacked access to essential health services. But now Covid-19 has increased these numbers and eroded access to healthcare. The infected cases are rapidly rising in India compared to other countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, which have seen a less devastating impact from the virus. Pakistan and Sri Lanka have so far coped reasonably well with the pandemic compared to other regional countries. Iran is the worst in the region as having the second highest fatality rate of 2.7pc after Afghanistan and 96 deaths per 100,000 of population,” it stated.
It added that in Pakistan 3pc people have been vaccinated compared to 15pc in India, 9pc in Sri Lanka and 6pc in Bangladesh.
The survey claimed that according to the estimates of National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS), the population of Pakistan is 215.25 million with a growth rate of 1.9pc in 2020 and population density of 270 per square km.
Population falling in the age group of 15-59 years is 59pc whereas 27pc are between 15 and 29 years. This youth bulge can translate into economic gains only if the youth have skills consistent with the requirements of a modern economy, it added.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2021