Health, education MDGs a far cry

ISLAMABAD  - With little improvements in education and health related indicators, Pakistan is far behind in achieving all Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) except the provision of safe drinking water.
The 2012-13 Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) reveals that more than nine in ten (93 per cent) households in Pakistan have access to an improved source of drinking water but the indicators of child mortality and fertility level are alarming and highest in the region. 
The 2012-13 PDHS launched Wednesday has been conducted by the National Institute of Population Studies (Nips), Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination with the support of US Agency for International Development that provides data for monitoring the population and health situation in Pakistan.  This is the third demographic and health survey conducted in the country.
Though, findings show a 16 percent decrease in under-five mortality since 2006-07 but neonatal mortality has remained unchanged for the past 20 years. The neonatal mortality rate in the past five years is 55 deaths per 1000 live births.  Currently under-five mortality is 89 deaths per 1000 live births. At these mortality levels, one in every 14 Pakistani children dies before reaching age 1 and one in every 11 does not survive to his or her fifth birthday resulting in over 1100 deaths per day.
The immunisation coverage rate has increased from 47 percent in 2006-07 to 54 percent in 2012-13 still 46 percent of the children below 2 years are not fully immunised. And regional data highlights areas of concern with only 16 percent of children fully immunised in Balochistan compared to 74 percent of those in Islamabad. In Sindh too immunisation rate has decreased from 35 percent in 2006-07 to 29 percent in 2012-13.  According to the survey, 45 percent of children under- five are stunted, or too short for their age that indicates chronic malnutrition.  Stunting is most common among children of less educated mothers (50 percent) and those from the poorest households (62 percent). In addition, 30 percent of Pakistani children are underweight or too thin for their age.  The survey said that although, fertility has decreased in Pakistan from 5.4 births per woman to 3.8 births per woman in the past 23 years but it is higher than its neighboring countries and still there are 20 percent of married women with unmet need of family planning.
For the first time in Pakistan, the 2012-13 PDHS collected information on gender based violence. Results indicate that 'one-third of Pakistani women over age 15 years have experienced some degree of physical violence. And 20 percent of those surveyed experienced physical violence in the past year with the most common perpetrator being their current husbands.  Not all women have power to make decisions. And only 29 percent of married women age 15 to 49 are employed and the large majority of them (71 percent) earn cash while 15 percent are not paid'.
The findings show a complex picture of health and population and there is far more to achieve still there are some improvements in maternal healthcare, remarked US Ambassador Richard Olson.
Highlighting the ongoing partnership between the United States and Pakistan to improve the health of the Pakistani people he said "nearly half of the births occurred in health facilities; an increase from one-third in 2006-07. More women now receive prenatal care.  More births are assisted by a skilled provider.  And more babies are delivered in a health facility...The focus on women and children is fundamental because healthy women and children develop a healthy society."
Despite some improvements, Pakistan is not on track to achieve its MDGs 4 and 5 for maternal and child health, said Tanvir Kiyani, PDHS Project Director. The survey clearly highlights the need for Pakistan to prioritise health and family planning and for all stakeholders, including the federal and provincial governments, civil society, international and local nongovernmental organisations and health practitioners to increase their efforts to ensure all Pakistanis have access to quality health services. 
Minister of State for, National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar said that the current growth rate is one of the highest in the region after Afghanistan. "We are also behind in various socio- economic indicators in the region mainly due to high population growth," she added.
Provincial health and population ministers, health experts, representatives of national and international development agencies, officials of various government organisations who were in attendance discussed key findings and spoke at length to make headway in various technical sessions after the launch.

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