KARACHI, April 26: Despite official claims that more money is being spent on the health of the nation as compared to previous years the fact is that most Pakistanis have no access to primary healthcare, emergency obstetrical care or emergency healthcare, said the Pakistan Medical Association’s (PMA) Health Report-2013, which is going to be launched on Saturday.

The report said the population of Pakistan had soared to more than 173 million according to figures quoted by international and national agencies. At least one third of the population was living below poverty line, it added.

“We have an annual fertility rate of 3.6 per cent, with a life expectancy of 63.6 years for men and 65.4 for women.”

Even worse, it said, the under-five mortality rate remained high at 95.2 per 1,000 and infant mortality rate at an abeyance 65.1 per 1,000. “A big proportion of our population is unable to drink clean water or enjoy the facilities of sanitation.”

According to the report, one child dies every minute from nine preventable diseases, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection, 400,000 infants die in first year of life every year and 30,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes.

The report said 80 per cent of births took place at home, with no or unskilled birth attendants, while the number of cases of oral cancer had been increasing rapidly.“This is number one cancer among men in Pakistan. Most common cause is betel nuts (chalia), mainpuri, gutka, naswar, etc.”

The PMA health report said Pakistan had sixth largest burden of tuberculosis (177 per 100,000) in the world. Besides, 500,000 new malaria cases were reported every year, including growing threat of falciparum malaria, it added.

It said the rate of low birth weight (protein deficiency) was over 25 per cent and anaemia (iron deficiency) was found in 45 per cent children; 34 per cent of mothers were underweight and 65 per cent anaemia was found in child-bearing women.

It said 25 million people in the country were consuming 36 billion cigarettes a year. Sheesha, which is in vogue in the society, is more hazardous than cigarettes, according to the report that said smoking of sheesha for one hour was equal to smoking 200 cigarettes.

The report stated that there was an increase in diabetes that affected 10 per cent people aged 25 and above.

There is increasing incidence of cancers, kidney disease and Hepatitis B and C, which is one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality in both children and adults, according to the report.

It said 78pc of one-year-old children were immunised against tuberculosis and only 53pc children were immunised against measles. Hepatitis B vaccination was not available to the whole population, it pointed out. Consequently, Hepatitis B and C cases were on the rise.

It is also notable that despite more than 62 rounds of polio vaccination, the country continues to report new polio cases.

According to the report, the government conceded that more than 80,000 people were HIV positive yet there was no organised plan to fight this disease.

Around two per cent of the country’s population is blind though 80 per cent of the cases were stated to be preventable.

The report said some 11pc Pakistanis suffered from diabetes having a 90pc chance of developing retinopathy in their lifetime. Half of this group was at risk of becoming blind if not treated by laser therapy, it added. A majority of adult population with diabetes had no access to treatment for the complication of diabetes-related blindness. With the exception of five or six government health facilities, most eye hospitals in the public sector did not have a working laser therapy unit, the report said.

According to government figures, more than 270 per 100,000 women die every year during pregnancy because of unavailability of emergency obstetrical care to most of them. Over 80pc women were delivered by traditional birth attendants — often in unhygienic and subhuman conditions. Maternal morbidity (fistula, infertility, loss of uterus, etc.) was increasing because of lack of healthcare facilities for underprivileged women in cities and villages.

The doctors’ body report said: “The political leadership of federal and provincial governments has not shown any commitment or political will to address the real health issues in Pakistan. The health of the nation has become a matter of cheap slogans and corruption, more so with increased donor funding.”

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