Save Our Children: Pakistan losing battle against hunger, disease

Published: January 7, 2015
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According to the PDH Survey 2006-07, Pakistani children are more likely to die young in rural areas. PHOTO: ONLINE

According to the PDH Survey 2006-07, Pakistani children are more likely to die young in rural areas. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: Children are dying all over the country for lack of medical facilities and food supplies. Yet no-one is taking their plight seriously.

“I lost my three children due to lack of neonatal resources, but no one has helped me so far,” said Prem Chandar, 34, who lost his third baby due to malnutrition in the Goth Haryar village of Mithi, Tharparkar, last month. “Our children are dying due to starvation. Is it not strange? We are a nuclear power but our children do not have sufficient food to eat.”

Chandar’s newborn lived only three days. Like the parents of 964 children who died in their infancy, Chandar was unable to save his child.

Figures obtained from multiple governmental and non-governmental organisations by The Express Tribune reveal that around 352,000 children who are under the age of five die every year in the country. Chandar, with his wife Sanjhari and two sick children, migrated to Mithi town in the hope to save them at a time when more than 330 children died due to malnutrition in Sindh, particularly in Tharparkar, this year. More than 1,800 children have died of measles and other epidemics in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Balochistan this year, figures reveal.

Pakistan has the highest rate of first-day deaths and stillbirths at 40.7 per 1,000 births, and 28,000 mothers die every year during childbirth, show reports prepared by the PDH Survey, the World Health Organisation and Save the Children and United Nations’ Children Fund. More than 204, 542 children died within 28 days only, the figures show.

According to the PDH Survey 2006-07, Pakistani children are more likely to die young in rural areas.

Instead of decrease, this dismal rate had been static at 55 per 1,000 live births in 2012-13, said Arshad Mahmood, Director Advocacy and Child Rights Governance. “The first moments of a child’s life are the most dangerous, yet almost 50 per cent mothers give birth without any skilled help in Pakistan. It’s tragic that many of these 200,000 annual newborn deaths in Pakistan could be averted simply by having someone around to make sure the birth took place safely.”

Experts said the federal and provincial governments should prioritise newborn health, come up with newborn health strategies and make budgetary allocations for health and nutrition, he added. Unfortunately, provincial health and child welfare departments were unable to provide any data about deaths of children in provinces.

Senior officials at the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau Punjab and K-P, and the Sindh Social Welfare Department for Children also revealed that they are yet to call any meeting on the recent deaths of children dying due to measles and malnutrition in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab.

A Pakistan Peoples Party MNA, who is also a member of the standing committee on health, admitted that they had not called any meeting on children’s deaths in Tharparkar or in Awaran district of Balochistan without explaining the reasons. He, however, claimed that the Sindh government had taken up this issue as an emergency.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Maiza Hameed, who admitted that child mortality rate in Pakistan, remains unchanged since 1994, claimed that the government was vigilant regarding health issues. Hameed was hopeful that lawmakers would take up this issue in parliament.

Experts stress upon the implementation of the National Health Programme 2010-15. They believe the National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Healthcare could not meet its goals due to scarcity of funds and manpower.

According to the official data, around 120,000 lady health workers (LHWs) are currently working and the LHW programme which can help save lives of mothers and infants needs Rs77 billion to achieve its goals.

“In order to ensure that a skilled birth attendant is present for every mother giving birth, 15,000 Community Midwives are required to be deployed in Punjab and Sindh each,” observed Dr Nand Lal, Incharge Child Department, Hyderabad Civil Hospital. Poverty in Balochistan, southern Punjab and interior Sindh was a major stumbling block in achieving goals of better health services. He urged the WHO and Unicef to restart their child welfare programmes in Pakistan.

Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi’s regional manager for Punjab, Farhan Amir, claimed that around 300 children had died of poor health services in five districts of southern Punjab. Thousands of children are suffering from diarrhea, infections and eye problems due to natural calamities like floods, he added.

“We have barely eaten in days and I am worried about my children. But there are no medicines and no dispensary within a day’s walk,” he observed. He blamed the government for not taking any steps for the protection of children in poorer districts of Punjab.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Jibran
    Jan 7, 2015 - 3:35AM

    Thanks God we have conquered Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Russia, Europe, Iran, and the USA. These small sacrifices mean little.

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  • Woz Ahmed
    Jan 7, 2015 - 3:36AM

    Appalling, but we have made our choices. Debt, largely domestic and our defence budget consume more than 100% of our budget. Defence budget up 12% this year, plus military pensions and military business are not counted.

    We choose to eat grass and are happy with our sacrifices.

    Long live Pakistan .

    Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)
    Jan 7, 2015 - 4:59AM

    And on the right side of this news, is the photo of PM. And he is without doubt suffering from hyperphagia…gluttony!

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  • Prognosticator
    Jan 7, 2015 - 7:46AM

    Stop diverting all aid money to building nukes. They are instruments of death. Spend it on the starving people.

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  • Toba Alu
    Jan 7, 2015 - 9:07AM

    These figures stipulate that crimes are committed on a large scale. There are no courts for these crimes. Poverty is a man-made disaster of epic scale. Not addressing this issue is criminal. Giving alms to the poor might be good for your feelings, but will never solve the problem of poverty in Pakistan. Start honestly exposing the real causes of this epic disaster, including institutions, culture, policies, etc. etc. Name and shame and start acting for real, lip-service is not sufficient. It never was and it never will be.

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  • sunny
    Jan 7, 2015 - 9:27AM

    May 2015 be a turn around year in which Pakistan makes efforts to reflect and take positive steps to end the menace of child mortality, hunger, extremism and energy shortage.

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  • Jan 7, 2015 - 9:47AM

    They are not diverting the money to building nukes, they have arranged the flow of money into their private accounts. Some one very nicely said that when Obama came into power he was healthy with black hairs and now during the course of his presidency he has lost lots of weight his hairs have gone grey. Where as look at our prime minister, when he assumed power he was much thinner than what he is now. After eating the sarkari food he is growing broader with promising huge belly coming out. He doesn’t look a prime minister but looks like a pehlwan from Gujaranwala, having rollicking time as PM. So please don’t get carried away with this idea that the prime minister and Zardari are making efforts to build strong Pakistan, they are in fact placed here by design to weaken Pakistan. They think that the nation is stupid and don’t understand them? They do my dear they do. @Prognosticator:

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  • raw is war
    Jan 7, 2015 - 9:51AM

    From the look of it, Pakistan seems to be keeping Hindus below poverty line- deliberately..

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  • abreez
    Jan 7, 2015 - 9:58AM

    ET, please bigger picture, Pakistani have very short memory that last only three days.
    Flood in Pakistan in 2014
    Flow of destruction as flood water entered Multan villages. While the Trimmu Head works was saved from the peak flood discharge, more than 350 villages in Jhang District were flooded due to the breaches made at two places in Athari Hazari dyke, leaving trail of destruction behind. As the floodwater moved further south, water level started increasing at Panjnad and had reached 116,000 cusecs, flooding areas in Mittan Kot and 300 villages in Multan District. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said that 257 people had been killed and more than 1.1 million were affected by the floods. According to reports, the Trimmu Head works, safely discharged 650,000 cusecs of water resulting in the water levels to recede. Three people were reported killed in Jhang and nine in Chiniot. Due to massive rain in Jammu and Kashmir as well as pakistan occupied Kashmir and in Pakistani Punjab constituted flood situation in River Chenab and River Jhelum.

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  • Lion King
    Jan 7, 2015 - 1:17PM

    This calls for celebrating Sindhi Topi Ajrak day

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  • Jan 8, 2015 - 2:41PM

    I agree to your point of view. But not only the government but we ourselves are responsible for this. Really an incredible article I really loved reading this article

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