Heralding the new normal, the global coronavirus pandemic has affected many facets of everyday life in its one-and-a-half-year long run, so far. For the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) however, the socio-economic impact of the virus, among other factors, has reflected in a drop in the region’s childbirth ratio, revealed a study conducted by the Lady Health Workers (LHWs) programme.
Per the programme’s findings, the total live births in K-P during 2019 were recorded to be around 318,631, while still births were counted at 8,748. In 2020 the figure for live birth reportedly dropped down to 266,292 babies, while still births accounted for 7,850 newborns.
Whereas, for the year 2021, statistics so far reveal a further drop in numbers. For instance, during the first three months of 2019, live and still births were counted to be 89,992 and 2,547, respectively. In 2020, the numbers were 70,831 live births and 2,015 still births.
In 2021 however, the numbers have plunged further down to 48,158 live births and a few hundred over 799 still births, across the province.
Talking about the study that reportedly covered almost 55 to 60 per cent of K-P’s population, LHWP’s Provincial Coordinator Dr Ijaz Khan, said that the downward trend in child births is owed to the economic impact of Covid-19 on the province. “Numerous people have lost their jobs during this period, which has driven them to using contraceptive measures for family planning,” he shared.
According to the 2019 District Health Information System (DHIS) report, Swat had the highest number of child deliveries in government maternity centres, where the yearly average was 2,637 child births. For Bannue, the number was 1, 719, 1, 615, in lower Dir, 1,333 in Malakand, 1,180 in Mardan, and 1,153 in Peshawar.
Adding to that, the report also revealed that in 2019, the infant mortality ratio in KP was 28 per cent. Charsadda district remained on top with an Infant Mortality Rate of 160 while, 2,599 infant deaths were reported.
However, there is so far no report of the category present for the year 2021, and neither could any information be received from the programme’s coordinator, who remained unavailable to comment.
According to local heath expert Dr Amjad Khan, regrettable the government has yet not complied or issued any data addressing the ratio of child birth during Covid-19. “All statics that we have so far, are from hospital records, which suggest an increase in birth ratio in some areas and a plunge in others. In areas where the numbers dropped, parents were reluctant to expand their families with compromised income,” the health practitioner told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2021.