One child dies every minute in Pakistan: Report

Published: March 12, 2011
One child dies every minute from expanded program on immunisation diseases, diarrhea and acute respiratory infection. PHOTO: AFP

One child dies every minute from expanded program on immunisation diseases, diarrhea and acute respiratory infection. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: The situation of child health in Pakistan is abysmal and serious efforts are needed by the government and civil society to save lives of  thousands of children who die every year from preventable diseases.

This grim picture of the deteriorating child health situation could be seen in the annual health report of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) for the year 2011, which says one child dies every minute from EPI (expanded program on immunisation diseases), diarrhea and acute respiratory infection (ARI).

The report also reveals that every year about 400,000 infants die in the first year of their life.

Child health in Pakistan is among the most important national issues that need serious attention.

Child mortality in Pakistan is a major cause of concern, with every one among 10 children dying before reaching the age of five and one among 30, just after they are born.

Pakistan is among the developing nations of the world that has yet to do much for the welfare of the general public.

Pneumonia and air pollution seem to be the factors affecting the health of Pakistani children. The air pollution is mostly caused by harmful emissions of biogas, which is used in most houses of Pakistan.

The main reason behind growing child mortality in Pakistan is lack of child healthcare facilities in rural areas, where majority of population lives.

Low state spending on healthcare, abject poverty, low literacy, lack of skilled birth attendants, widespread communicable diseases, insufficient emergency child health services in government run district and rural hospitals are amongst other major reasons behind growing diseases in children.

Maternal, newborn and child health care statistics in Pakistan are some of the poorest in South Asia.

A holistic approach is needed to improve maternal and newborn health, mainly by improving and upgrading facilities at the district hospitals. Most common and lethal diseases in Pakistan include (ARI) acute respiratory, infection, viral hepatitis, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, scabies, goiter, hepatitis and tuberculosis.

Among the victims of acute respiratory infection (ARI) most vulnerable are children whose immune systems have been weakened by malnutrition.

Majority of children visiting hospitals and dispensaries suffer from the respiratory ailments and serious attention is needed to provide better medical treatment to children living in rural areas. Viral hepatitis, particularly that caused by types B and C are major epidemics in Pakistan with nearly 12 million individuals infected with either of the virus. The main cause remains massive overuse of therapeutic injections and reuse of syringes during these injections in the private sector healthcare.

Children are also amongst the hepatitis patients and their number is growing sharply. Malaria is a problem faced by the lower class people in Pakistan. The unsanitary conditions and stagnant water bodies in the rural areas and city slums provide excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Like adults, children also suffer from malarial diseases, which needs serious attention of healthcare policymakers. Diarrhea is rampant in the country due to use of contaminated water. It is estimated that about 20 per cent of diarrhea patients are children. Similarly, diseases like dysentery, scabies, dengue, goiter are also on the rise.

Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Pakistan provides vaccination against childhood tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type b and measles, besides protecting pregnant ladies with tetanus toxoid and their neonates against neo-natal tetanus.

However, there is no success even to control polio. Most births which take place at home under untrained supervision, which are responsible for alarming mortality of mothers and newborns.

Children under the age of five face multiple obstacles, including birth injuries and infectious diseases. Millions of children suffer from short- and long-term adverse consequences of illnesses, malnutrition and injuries that impact their well-being and options in life, including fewer educational opportunities and diminished future economic prospects.

Child health is closely related to maternal health, as nutrition during pregnancy, birth conditions, birth spacing, and health status of the mother impact the health of the child prior to, during and after birth.

Largely because of these factors, three million infants are stillborn each year.

The recent devastating floods in Pakistan have further increased the disease burden. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says as many as three and a half million children in flood-ravaged Pakistan may be at risk of contracting deadly diseases carried through contaminated water and insects. UNICEF says the greatest threats to public health in Pakistan at the current time are certainly from waterborne diseases, which can intensify in precarious hygiene conditions, and when people have limited or poor access to safe water and sanitation services.

Diseases like cholera or acute watery diarrhoea, dysentery or bloody diarrhoea, typhoid fever and hepatitis, can all cause excess mortality and morbidity amongst the susceptible populations in the flood-hit areas.

There is also an increased risk of malaria and dengue fever, since the stagnant water may provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes — the vector that is responsible for transmission.

To cope with the situation, the government must open more children hospitals in the country. In Sindh province, there is just one big children hospital, National Institute of Child Health (NICH), running in Karachi by the federal government. There is dire need to open more children hospitals in the province and improve children departments in the hospitals of government-run teaching colleges in Karachi, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Nawabshah, Sukkur and Larkana.

In order to save lives of children, pediatric wards should be opened in all district headquarter hospitals, where emergency services along with trained child disease experts should be made available.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Fareed Mohamad
    Mar 12, 2011 - 3:17PM

    What Crap! Who cares! We need to pull our money out of all this crap and build bigger missilesRecommend

  • faraz
    Mar 12, 2011 - 3:29PM

    We are a fortress of islam, infant mortality is not an issue for us. Conspiracies are being hatched against us by CIA, RAW and Mossad, so we need to increase our defence budget. And we are an ideological state, not a welfare state. And mullahs rightly claim that God provides food, not the government. And disease is a test of our faith, medicine wont work if your faith is weak. Recommend

  • Rohail
    Mar 12, 2011 - 4:51PM

    Good. It’s cruel to born kids in a terrorism based country like Pakistan.Recommend

  • rofl
    Mar 12, 2011 - 7:33PM

    Pakistan should make more nuclear warheads as soon as possible.Recommend

  • Anwar
    Mar 12, 2011 - 9:03PM

    Who cares about the dying children. All Pakistanis think about is how to kill the infidel and how to kill every one who does not follow their version of Islam. Long live the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Amina
    Mar 12, 2011 - 10:40PM

    I love the way you sit and preach about Islam but basic humanity has no place in your life. Its disgusting how you debate on inconsequential issues such as politicians who will never change or fake morality. But you have no space in your life or heart for poor helpless children. No wonder this country is headed towards complete demise! Recommend

  • Anwar
    Mar 12, 2011 - 10:53PM

    Pakistani children have been dying for the last 60 years. I don’t think anyone really cares..!Recommend

  • Shahbano Amer
    Mar 12, 2011 - 11:06PM

    In the government hospitals the allocated budget for a pre-mature baby on incubator is just Rs. 3 per day. That is right three rupees per day. So you can imagine what kind of chances the baby is going to have. A good care for a baby on incubator costs more than Rs. 12000. Unless we do not increase the budget for education and health in the country, nothing is going to change. Last year’s federal budget for health care research in whole of Pakistan was Rs 20 Lacs. What else can you expect with such fundings. Recommend

  • naeem khan
    Mar 12, 2011 - 11:53PM

    I have observed that very few people in our country have access to pure drinking water. I have myself seen children drinking stangnant water like animals(their belly touching ground while drinking). Animals like donkeys,dogs etc. also drink water from these ponds.Recommend

  • anil
    Mar 13, 2011 - 12:15AM

    Pakistan estabilishment should not let their vision be blurred by these news. They should intensify their efforts to build more nuclear weapons and focus on getting Kashmir back from India. Establishing an Islamic Nuclear state is more important than these trivial healthcare, women’s right , secular education, economic progress, minorities welfare etc. etc Infact every Pakistani family should follow the good mullah and produce as many children as possible to spread Islam; so what a few of them dies due to lack of health care. those who survive will be torch bearers of IslamRecommend

  • Fatima
    Mar 13, 2011 - 8:11AM

    I really never believed people didnt have a heart,bt now i can anyone say that let these children die ,in such gr8 numbers.the pakistanis are so weak ,they dont have time to get out of their own problems especillay the rural population.we should go ask these ppl how they feel leaving as if in stone age,or even worse.ofcourse ppl who r nt in these conditions,would nt understand.if u think PAKISTAN should simply develop nuclear weapons and leave ppl to die and suffer,then i guess u should also contribute ur part.go and live in those remote areas.besides islam never tought us to be so impassive towards others.hazrat umar felt himself responsible ,even if a dog died of hunger in his territory,and these r humans.Recommend

  • Umar
    Mar 14, 2011 - 2:37PM

    @Fatima… Its called Sarcasm. Learn to recognize it as you will encounter it in the word of people from a nation where apparently that is all one can do and hope things change with next government Recommend

  • Autumn
    Apr 3, 2011 - 11:11AM

    I find it interesting the several of the responders on this page believe that our Creator would like his creations to perish over such little things as diseases that could be spared through medicine, good drinking water and decent food. It seems petty to put so much money into creating a weapon that destroys and not put some into saving children who would be future Muslims. With that mindset, you will some day be out of people who live the Muslim way.Recommend

  • Autumn
    Apr 3, 2011 - 11:25AM

    By the way, if too many nuclear weapons are used, no one will exist to enjoy the world without the infidels besides the cockroaches. I wonder how many of these children are born to terrorists. If they have so little care for children, then perhaps they should not do what creates them in the first place. In this way, no one would be shocked by the death of so many innocent lives being lost for no good reason. I do not understand such an angry mindset. Children are beautiful and to watch them grow and evolve their personalities is a gift I enjoy as much as possible. I am a teacher. I believe that we are all teachers, regardless of what our career is. Parents teach their children, the people about the child teach them, and the world outside of that has an influence upon them. I teach so that my children (my students) might get up out of the gutter of lower status and rise up, educated, to fight with intelligence and brains to create a better place for themselves and their families… in a higher status. Wealth should have nothing to do with the education received. As long as there is a good person there to teach the children, there will be education. I have gone into many countries and helped to teach the young, to establish schools for them, even if it is one room, and been there to help them learn about the edible plants and how to safely trap rain water when it comes. I have done my best to raise awareness in the country I am from so that I might raise funding to accomplish changes that I found were worthwhile. No child should be left to rot. To me, that is a terrible thing to do. That is worse than showing too much skin or having different belief systems or different religions.Recommend

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