Pakistan has halved maternal mortality while child mortality has decreased by a quarter
6 May, 2014, PAKISTAN – 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 percent over the past 15 years. These statistics were announced at the launch of Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers report, in Islamabad on Tuesday.
The report shows that maternal and child mortality in the most challenging countries of the world can be dramatically cut when efforts are made to improve services for mothers and children.
The children's aid agency's annual State of the World's Mothers report, now in its fifteenth edition, compares 178 countries around the globe, showing which 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.
"Pakistan has seen improvements on child and maternal well-being over the past 15 years, despite conflict and natural disasters," said David Skinner, Country Director for Save the Children in Pakistan. "But 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."
This year's State of the World's Mothers report focuses on mothers in humanitarian crises in order to better understand and respond to their needs. Mothers in humanitarian crises are often faced with many obstacles to keep their children healthy – such as physical and economic access to essential services – while their own vulnerability to poverty, malnutrition, sexual violence, unplanned pregnancy and unassisted childbirth greatly increases.
"Pakistan is vulnerable to seasonal floods, droughts and earthquakes, which has become more severe in recent years with climate change. It has caused losses in crops and livestock and damages 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 David Skinner. "Pakistan also has pockets of conflict, where mothers and their children are likely to face widespread shortage in essential services. The lack of health services, coupled with poor living conditions for internally displaced populations can be fatal, especially for pregnant women and newborns."
To further discuss the status of mothers and children in Pakistan, Dr. Qudsia Uzma, Director Health & Nutrition at Save the Children said, "Disasters affect states where poverty is an existing problem. The issues that result are further compounded by the lack of access and delivery to the health needs of the people, and failing to cater to these basic human needs becomes a cause and consequence of such disasters. This is particularly important when mortality risk is the highest; during labour, childbirth and the first week after delivery."
To protect mothers and children in the aftermath of disasters in Pakistan, Save the Children is calling upon Federal and Provincial governments, and civil society to:
- Ensure that every mother and newborn living in crisis has access to high quality health care, including family planning services, and breastfeeding counseling
- Build the resilience of health systems to minimise the damaging effects of crises on health
- Develop national and local preparedness plans tailored to respond to the specific needs of mothers, children and babies in emergencies
- Ensure adequate financing and coordination to timely respond to mothers and children's needs in emergencies
Dr. Saheb Jaan Badar, Director MNCH Sindh said that mortalities double during disasters and crises situations. She referred to Lady Health Workers and Community Midwives as the backbone of the Health Department and praised their exemplary efforts in challenging circumstances. She reiterated the commitment of the government of Sindh to increase the number of CMWS by 6,000 to meet the wider population in the province.
Rahat Noor, a Community Midwife from Balochistan who has been named amongst the top 5 CMWs in the world this year, also spoke at the event. She shared her experiences and the initial challenges she faced in the community and stated that her achievement is in part due to the support of the provincial government in streamlining the work of frontline health workers. While speaking, she also requested the government to ensure supplies are available to all CMWs in the province so they can have effective contribution in saving the lives of mother and children.