Pakistan is lagging behind in its pursuit of two Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to child survival and maternal health, according to a new report launched by a United Nations (UN) review group.
The report, titled ‘Every Woman, Every Child: from commitments to action,” was published by the independent Expert Review Group (iERG).
The 2012 report is the group’s first in a series of four reports to be submitted to the UN secretary general.
The group’s reports are linked to the UN’s Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health, which aims to accelerate progress towards the achievement of MDG 4 and MDG 5 in 75 countries that account for 98 % of all maternal and child deaths in the world.
“Pakistan does not seem to have improved its health coverage rates, and compared to some other countries in the region, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan has really fallen behind,” Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta, head of the division of women and child health at the Aga Khan University, who has studied the report, told The Express Tribune.
Child mortality rate
For MDG 4, which requires a two-third reduction in the mortality rate of children under five in the target countries between 1990 and 2015, Pakistan has shown “insufficient progress” from 1990 to 2010, according to the report.
Pakistan saw an annual reduction of 1.8% in the under-five mortality rate over this two-decade period, with 87 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010. Countries are required to show at least a 4% annual reduction rate or have less than 40 deaths per 1,000 live births for children under five.
Neonatal deaths, or children dying within a month of being born, make up 46% of all under-five deaths in Pakistan, according to the report.
Maternal mortality ratio
The MDG 5 strives to reduce the maternal mortality ratio in the 75 countries by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. It also requires universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
Pakistan is “making progress” for MDG 5, which is the second-best category assigned in the report to the 75 countries.
Pakistan saw an average annual reduction rate of 3% from 1990 to 2010, compared to the ideal reduction rate of at least 5.5%, according to the report.
The report stated that Pakistan has not conducted an annual health sector review in 2011.
Some “impressive” developments mentioned in the report include a 33% and 38% reduction in the overall maternity and child mortality numbers, respectively, from 1990 to 2011.
The report also estimated that out of the 75 countries, 13 countries are “on-track” for MDG 4 and only four for MDG 5.
“Evidence is gradually growing to show that investing in adolescent, women’s, and children’s health has important economic as well as health returns. This emerging evidence should give confidence to ministries of finance to invest in adolescents, women, and children for long-term prosperity,” the report read, in its conclusion.
Bhutta agreed that health should be a top national priority. “Health should percolate up in our governmental policies,” he said. “No country has ever made progress without focusing on health.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2012.