Tuesday, 7 June 2011

MALNUTRITION: Pakistan: High infant, maternal mortality rate

Asma Ghani : June 03, 2011
ISLAMABAD - Despite being signatory to several international development strategies, including MDGs and commitment to achieve reduction in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) by 2015, Pakistan suffers a high infant and maternal mortality and inadequate health care facilities with high population growth as compared to other regional countries.
According to Economic Survey 2010-11 released on Thursday, Pakistan’s performance as compared to other regional countries for the year 2010 shows that it still suffers a high mortality rate in infants - 63.3 per cent - and the maternal mortality - 89 per cent, amid the burden of diseases and inadequate health care facilities with high population growth. Though the fact that Pakistan has made progress during the last couple of years towards achieving these health targets yet the pace has been sluggish. Mortality, morbidity and slow progress of indicators in the maternal and child health are major concerns in the progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goals and Pakistan is lagging behind from other developing countries in these indicators. The survey reveals that in spite of adequate production and sustained availability of foods, malnutrition is persistently prevalent in the country.
According to the available data, about 38 per cent of children less than five years of age are underweight and 12 per cent are severely under weight, reflective of wide spread malnutrition among women during adolescence. In addition, micronutrient deficiencies such as iron, iodine, zinc and vitamin-A are widespread, particularly among pre-school children.
However, life expectancy at birth is a good indicator of health and here Pakistan has done better. The average life expectancy at 67.2 years estimated for 2010 is well comparable with Bangladesh, Nepal and Thailand but the mortality rate for children under age five and infant mortality still remains high due to birth related problems, immunisable diseases, malnutrition and unhealthy dietary habits and low female literacy rate.
Notwithstanding the increase in absolute terms the ratio of health budget to GNP/GDP remained more or less static at around 0.5-0.7 percent. For 2011, total health care expenditure is estimated at 0.23 percent of GDP. And currently a total of 82 development schemes with PSDP allocation of Rs.16.9 billion for year 2010-11 have been executing through ministry of health.
The survey claims that there has been a noticeable improvement in some health indicators over the years. The health care personnel-doctors, dentist, nurses and paramedics etc in public sector have also increasing considerably over time in the country. Up to the year 2010, there are 144,901 physicians, 10508 dentists, 73,244 nurses, and 27.153 midwives. Besides, there are 972 hospitals in the country with total of 104,137 hospital beds, 4,842 dispensaries and 5,344 basic health units (BHUs) mostly in rural areas.

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