After the travel restrictions imposed on Pakistan due to its failure to eradicate polio, Pakistan is in for another embarrassment on the health front situation due to its poor performance in improving maternal and child well-being.
According to an annual Save the Children study, “State of the World’s Mothers: saving mothers and children in humanitarian crises”, launched by Save the Children on Tuesday, Pakistan is ranked 147 out of 178 countries listed and dead last in South Asia in terms of child and maternal well-being due to poor healthcare services, poverty, malnutrition and natural calamities.
The mothers’ index assesses the well-being of mothers and children around the globe, showing which countries are succeeding --- and which are failing --- in saving and improving the lives of mothers and their children. Overall, Finland was ranked the best place to be a mother for the second straight year, and Somalia came in last.
The report says that in Pakistan, maternal mortality has been cut by almost half, child mortality decreased by a quarter, expected years of schooling increased by 3.3 years and gross national income per capita rose 270 per cent over the past 15 years.
“If all newborn babies in Pakistan experienced the same survival rates as newborns from the richest 20 percent of the population, 48,000 more babies would survive each year,” states the report.
The study further reveals that the majority of deaths in Pakistan are reported from socially-excluded communities. Meanwhile, the country lead the world in the numbers of people affected by conflict --- 28 million --- with Nigeria the next worst, with 19 million.
“Pakistan has seen improvements on child and maternal well-being over the past 15 years despite conflict and natural disasters,” said Save the Children Country Director David Skinner.
He said we should be concerned that we have fallen behind our neighbours because we are not making improvements for mothers and children quickly enough.
“Many children are still dying from preventable causes. Mothers are giving birth alone at home and children are not staying in school,” he said.
Moreover, Pakistan is vulnerable to seasonal floods, droughts and earthquakes, which have become more severe in recent years with climate change, he said.
“It has caused losses in crops and livestock and damage to homes and other assets in the worst-affected areas, which in turn can cause a spike in malnutrition, school dropouts, and a decrease in usage of paid health services,” said Skinner.
Pakistan also has pockets of conflict where mothers and their children are likely to face widespread shortages of essential services he said, adding that the lack of health services, coupled with poor living conditions for internally-displaced populations, can be fatal, especially for pregnant women and newborns.
To protect mothers and children in the aftermath of disasters in Pakistan, the report urged the federal and provincial governments, and civil society to ensure that every mother and newborn living in crisis areas has access to high quality healthcare, including family planning services, and breastfeeding counselling.
Other recommendations include building the resilience of health systems to minimise the damaging effects of crises on health, developing national and local preparedness plans tailored to respond to the specific needs of mothers, children and babies in emergencies, and to ensure adequate financing and coordination for timely responses to mothers and children’s needs in emergencies.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2014.