Pakistan People’s Party has promised in its 2013 manifesto about bringing the infant mortality rate down to 60 per cent.
According to the Sindh Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014, the infant mortality rate in Sindh was recorded at 82 deaths per 1,000 lives birth (8.2 per cent).
Sindh’s infant mortality rate was 81 deaths per 1,000 lives in 1991 when the total infant mortality rate of Pakistan was 91 and of Punjab 104. Ironically, after 25 years the figure has increased, instead of going down. This was reported in “Dying Children of Sindh and Sustainable Development Goal,” report prepared by the Sindh Bureau of Statistics. The question arises as to why the Sindh government has been unable to keep its children from dying at birth. Even the under-five mortality rate is at 104 per 1,000 live births while four out of 10 children under five are malnourished and severely underweight. It becomes pertinent to ask what the government of Sindh had delivered during its almost eight-year rule especially when more children are dying because of preventable deaths.
Billions or rupees are allocated every year in Sindh for the health care budget. If not spent on health than where does the entire fund go?
The report answers most of these questions. It informs that on any given day an average of 30 to 40 health care providers is absent from public sector hospitals and that there is a chronic shortage of female staff and specialists in rural districts.
Over 10 billion had been spent on the rehabilitation of taluka headquarters hospitals or district headquarters hospitals since 2007. Similarly, Rs 10 billion was devoted to the procurement of medicines.
Poverty is considered to be a significant contributing factor in keeping the infant mortality rate at the higher side. Rural Sindh is particularly exposed to poverty due to a persistent shortage of water, land degradation, constant floods and climate change. In recent past drought and floods have resulted in massive livestock death, crop failure and severe malnutrition in Sindh
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the maternal health as the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. Maternal health is crucial for a healthy birth of a child. According to WHO findings almost three million neonatal deaths and stillbirths annually are directly related to a maternal health condition such as poor status, deprived living environment, and infectious diseases.
Sharmila Farooqi, MPA from Pakistan Peoples Party in the Sindh Assembly candidly approved of Sindh government’s inability to give its 100 per cent to improving infant mortality rate. However, she is hopeful that the Sindh government would correct its flaws and do something constructive in the next fiscal year. “We are concentrating on sectors like maternal, neonatal and child health with full vigour,” Sharmila said.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA, Dr Nikhat Shakeel Khan, is, however, pessimist about PPP’s resolve to do anything constructive in the health sector shortly. The Sindh government says Khan has been unable to build even a separate hospital for children in Karachi. “The of National Institute of Child Health,” Khan says, “Requires upgradations but the Sindh government is not pushed. If only the government upgrades NICH many lives of the infants can be saved.”
Talking about the health budget, she says since we do not see any development work-taking place in the health sector. Therefore, we can say that the budget is being misused. About solutions, she says, “If we could improve the conditions of the Basic Health Units and provide nutritious food to the mother things can become better.” Pakistan is the signatory to the Millennium Development Goal, which is now renamed as Sustainable Development Goal according to which the country is liable to improve the infant mortality rate and the health of a mother.
Dr Seema Zia, Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf’s MPA in the Sindh Assembly says that 96 per cent of the budget of almost every sector is spent on non-development. With four per cent in hand, she argues, no sector can make progress. Merit is not taken into consideration says Zia during hiring, which she explains complicates things by affecting quality and service delivery. “The government is not serious about anything, and it does not even admit that it is at fault,” says Zia.
Sindh health sector says Zia is at the disposal of Non-government Organization.
Dr Iqbal Memon Paediatrician in Karachi lays the blame on the Sindh government for its inability to solve the issue of infant mortality rate. He said that environmental pollution and lack of nutritious food are the main causes behind the rise in infant mortality rate. He said mothers in rural areas, where a large proportion of infants die, are forced to drink contaminated water and adulterated food. He said lack of proper sanitation also causes mothers and their children to suffer from diseases at an early age. At the government level, Memon says lack of proper hospitals, medical facilities and a dearth of doctors are a few reasons that cause infants to die at birth.
Pakistan People’s Party has failed to keep its promise of reducing the infant mortality by 60 per cent. In fact, the death rate among the newborn has increased.