Pakistan has not budged too far from its dismal neonatal mortality rate ranking this year, with the UN children’s agency (Unicef) counting the country as the riskiest for newborn babies. This is shocking when compared with a number of countries that have actually improved their mortality records — in some cases by as much as 50 per cent. Unicef released the figures as part of an awareness campaign to lower the risks for countries such as Pakistan, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan. Tragically, most newborn deaths occur because of preventable and treatable conditions. Unicef believes that up to three million children can be saved if governments can make adequate investments in quality care at the time of delivery. That however is easier said than done — simply because of the prohibitive costs involved.
Access to clean drinking water is restricted for the most part and the shortage of trained midwives is quite a headache in Pakistan and other places where infant mortality poses a serious threat. We should be able to surmount those difficulties because, unlike Afghanistan and some African states, we are at least not ravaged by war. Most of Pakistan’s problems can be resolved if we only had the political courage to do so. We have been undone by weak institutions and poor planning and this needs to change now.
One in 22 newborns fail to live past the first month. Deaths can be attributed to a number of causes such as home deliveries, anaemic mothers and poor sanitary conditions. Health officials often say that they can prevent thousands of neo-natal deaths by ensuring proper hygiene. There are high expectations from awareness programmes — both Unicef’s and the government’s own initiatives — on how the tide can be turned against infant mortality.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2018.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.