Islamabad - Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal yesterday said that Pakistan has the highest ratio of child mortality in the world and social indicators have put the country among the least developed countries that is alarming.

The minister addressing a roundtable conference organised by the ministry for planning, development and reforms on Early Childhood Development said that government is preparing to develop national plan of action for childhood development to produce better human resources with healthier minds in the country.

“A national level working group has been set up which would provide solid recommendation on the basis of its research regarding national plan of action for protection of childhood,” Iqbal added.

The minister said Pakistan has the highest ratio of child mortality in the world while poor health, malnutrition and lack of breastfeeding are causing major health issues among children.

According to UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO), out of 10, less than two mothers are engaged in early breastfeeding in Pakistan and this is one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world.

The minister also stated that Pakistan is among the countries where more children are out of schools. “With hunger, poverty and the flawed education, we cannot move forward,” he said. Ahsan Iqbal maintained, “The economic indicator of Pakistan shows that the country is among middle income countries while we have to look at our structural weakness.”

The purpose of convening the conference was to deliberate upon a conceptual framework to strategise programmes and adopt system strengthening measures for improving physical, social, intellectual and emotional health of children in the country.

Later, participating in the roundtable open discussion, the panellists were of the view that Pakistan has one of the highest rates of first day deaths and stillbirths at 40.7 per 1000 births.

They informed that some mothers feel pressured to bear more children than they could support on locally available nutritious diet.

However in urban centres, some mothers are obese yet malnourished from a diet rich in processed, caloric-dense foods that contain few micro nutrients. The panellists further informed that chances of survival of a newborn child increases when it is breastfed within an hour of birth.