Report calls for doing more for maternity care | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Report calls for doing more for maternity care

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan is the most dangerous place to be born in Asia as it has the highest first day mortality rate for babies in Asia and shares 6 per cent burden of the global first day deaths due to high rate of pre-term births, low birth weight, poor nutritional status of mothers, poor family planning, lack of health workers and early childbearing, outlines a study.

Save the Children Tuesday launched its 14th annual State of the World’s Mothers 2013 report, revealing that “1-in-77 Pakistani babies die in their first day in life, making up 17 per cent of all under-five deaths in the country.

The report contains the first ever Birthday Risk Index with the death rate for babies in their first day of life in 186 countries and presents the mother’s status on specific indicators globally with a particular focus on Pakistan.

Dr Qudsia Uzma, Director Health and Nutrition at Save the Children, highlighted the main features of the report in his presentation. She revealed that Pakistan has a very large number of newborn deaths which is 169,400 out of which 59800 are first day deaths per year accounting for 30 per cent of all newborn deaths, making it the most dangerous day for any baby. There is a comparatively slow progress that is 0.9 per cent annual reduction in newborn mortality, which is less than the global average of 2.1 per cent.

Some reasons for this include high rate of pre-term births, low birth weight, poor nutritional status of mothers, poor family planning, lack of health workers and early childbearing. Pakistan has also the highest low birth weight where 32 per cent of the babies are born too small.

At the heart of the newborn survival problem is a stubborn and widening gap between the health of the world’s rich and poor and closing the equity gaps in Pakistan would save lives of 48,000 newborns each year, says the report.

State of the World’s Mothers also compares 176 countries around the globe, showing which are succeeding – and which are failing – in saving and improving the lives of mothers and their children.

Pakistan ranked 139th on the best places to be a mother, based on factors such as mother’s health, education and economic status, as well as critical child indicators such as health and nutrition.

It came in ahead of neighbours India and Afghanistan, but trailed behind Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Overall, Finland was ranked the best place to be a mother while the Democratic Republic of Congo came in last. Globally, 60 million girl children were married last year, out of which 24 per cent were from rural and 18 per cent from urban Pakistan. The risk of death for pregnant girls under the age of 15 is five times higher than for women in their 20’s.

The report also outlines that although many countries in South Asia have made great gains in increasing access to family planning, use remains especially low in Afghanistan and Pakistan where only 16 and 19 per cent women use modern forms of contraception. Partly as a result, these countries have the highest fertility rates in the region, which put both mothers and babies at higher risk of deaths.

“The number of newborn deaths in Pakistan is unacceptably high. About 1-in-28 babies in Pakistan do not live past the first month of life, making Pakistan one of 10 countries accounting for nearly two-thirds of the three million newborn deaths that take place globally every year,” said David Skinner, country director for Save the Children in Pakistan.

“Pakistan also has the highest number of stillborn babies in the region, at 1-in-23, many of which are preventable. Overall, the report shows that universal coverage of four products which only cost between 13 cents and US$6 per treatment can prevent over a million or one-in-three newborn deaths globally each year. With sufficient trained health workers to use these products, we can prevent thousands of Pakistani children from dying needlessly”, he added.

The report recommends to invest in low-cost solutions that can dramatically reduce newborn mortality. Proper cord care and newborn/pediatric doses of antibiotics can prevent and treat simple but deadly infections. Exclusive breastfeeding and “kangaroo mother care” should be encouraged which cost nothing but can save hundreds of thousands of babies’ lives each year.

Additionally, birth attendants should be trained and given proper support and supplies. It stresses upon to fight the underlying causes of newborn mortality, especially gender inequality and malnutrition. ‘Help mothers become strong and stable – physically, financially and socially – make their children stronger and more likely to survive and thrive’.

Increase the number of health workers and provide them training which will give them a shot to save preterm babies and helping babies breathe. Bangladesh has made newborn care more accessible by training community health workers to reach mothers and babies at home.

The study also calls for the implementation of Protection of Breast feeding and Young Child Nutrition Ordinance 2002 and the Provincial Breastfeeding Laws.

Ministry of Inter-provincial Coordination Deputy DG Health Dr Sabeen Afzal, Singer Haroon Rashid and Farrah Sadia, campaign ambassadors of Every One in Pakistan, and best LHW from Balochistan Abida Mustafa also shared their experiences and highlighted different aspects related to child and mothers’ health issues.

Source: The Nation

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