Health experts have expressed fears that disruptions in healthcare services caused by the coronavirus pandemics might lead to a 31% rise in Pakistan’s infant and maternal mortality rates over the next 12 months. An article carried in the medical journal Lancet has sounded the warning. This should come as a serious warning to the government and all those associated with the task of ensuring mother and child health and take steps to improve reproductive health services in the current situation, considering that even in the pre-Covid-19 period infant and child mortality rates in the country were considerably high. At present infant mortality rate is 78 per 1,000 live births, neonatal mortality rate 54 deaths per 1,000 live births, and under-five mortality rate is 94 per 1,000 live births. Around 286 women out of 1,000 die during childbirth and pregnancy-related complications every year. Most of these deaths are preventable. These figures are higher than in most low- income countries.
At a press conference in Karachi on Monday, experts said expecting mothers and newborns were more vulnerable during times of disaster, so special measures should be taken to ensure maximum care to them both during pregnancy and after the birth of the child. According to one of the experts, since Sindh had seen the highest incidence of coronavirus in the country, the lockdown necessitated to control the pandemic has caused more disruptions in providing reproductive health services to women. This might undo the gains made over the past decade in reducing maternal and infant mortality rates in Sindh. Therefore, there is need to continue unhindered the services relating to ensuring mother and child health and family planning services during the unusual situation. The Sindh government was praised on the occasion for taking numerous initiatives, including the Reproductive Health Act to protect family planning rights of women. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gueterres has rightly said no woman and child should be allowed to die.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2020.