Pakistan has the highest first-day infant mortality rate — one in 77 babies — in Asia, accounting for 17 per cent of all under-five deaths in the country, and making it the most dangerous place in the region to be born, according to a report titled, “Surviving the First Day: State of the World’s Mothers 2013.”
The report was launched on Tuesday at a ceremony at Ramada Hotel by Save the Children.
Save the Children Director Health and Nutrition Dr Qudsia Uzma said the 0.9 per cent annual decrease in infant mortality in the country was lower than the global average of 2.1 per cent.
The report contains the first ever Birth Day Risk Index, which documents the death rates for babies in their first day of life in 186 countries. Findings reveal that around 60,000 of Pakistani babies died within the first day of life, accounting for 30 per cent of all newborn deaths.
According to the report, the reasons behind these statistics include a high rate of pre-term and underweight births, at 16 and 32 per cent respectively, mothers’ poor nutritional status, and a lack of family planning. The country also had the highest number of stillborn babies in the region, at 1-in-23.
The report stressed on the need for investment in health workers, particularly those working in the field, to enable them to reach out to vulnerable mothers and babies.
It also called for investments in low-cost, low-tech solutions to deal with fatal situations both pre- and post-pregnancy.
Federal and provincial governments should take responsibility for the recruitment, training, and support of health workers, while increasing funding for direct nutrition interventions, said the report. Uzma said more than a million children’s lives could be saved each year by improving breastfeeding practices and basic hygiene.
TheNetwork for Consumer Protection’s Rubina Bhatti responded by arguing that female employees were not entitled to maternity leave for more than three months, due to which they were not able to fulfil their breastfeeding duties.
The Protection of Breastfeeding and Young Child Nutrition Ordinance 2002 has been implemented but not enforced in many regions across the country, she said.
“The infant mortality rate is unacceptably high. Around 1 in 28 babies do not live past their first birthday, making Pakistan one of 10 countries that account for nearly two-thirds of the three million new born deaths recorded globally per year,” said Save the Children Pakistan Country Director David Skinner.
The Every One Campaign ambassador Haroon Rashid after providing a brief overview of the campaign’s initiative, said the country was ranked 139th on the list of best places to be a mother, coming in ahead of neighbours India and Afghanistan but lagging behind Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Rashid said the ranking was based on factors such as a mother’s health, education and economic status, and critical child indicators such as nutrition.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2013.