Lahore: Pakistan has the highest child mortality rate in the world. Statistically speaking of every 1000 children 41 die just after birth but the government has failed to formulate a policy to curtail the child mortality rate despite several promises made by the government.

Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal, also revealed these facts in a roundtable conference on Early Childhood Development on August 22. According to Iqbal, his government’s is in the process of preparing the National Action Plan for Childhood Development (NAPCD) with an aim to produce better human resources with healthier minds.

An official of Ministry of Planning and Development (PND), seeking anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to media, told News Lens Pakistan, “The NAPCD is still a concept, and no particular action had been taken in this regard so far.”

Dr. Shehla Zafar, a clinical psychologist in the University of Punjab, shared her views on the report with News Lens Pakistan and said, “When we say children are dying it means that there is an acute dearth of a healthy lifestyle in areas where infant mortality rate is high.”

Talking about psychological implications, she said, in this entire episode it was the mother who suffered the most. “Not only she loses her child but also suffers from the blame in the wake of a dead child as if she has asked for it. It makes her vulnerable to depression and anxiety.”

According to the Pakistan’s Demographic and Health Survey 2012-13, around 45 percent of Children show evidence of chronic malnutrition or stunting.” It is the third highest percentage of stunted children in the world.”

Stunting is defined as low height for age.

Neil Buhne, UNDP, Resident Representative in Pakistan, in his statement issued on August 17, 2016, has written, “Stunting in Pakistan is a tragedy of epic proportion.” Talking about the effects of stunting he further wrote that stunting is not about height only; it is about the negative consequences on the physical and neurological development, it is about diminishing mental abilities and learning capacities of a child.

Dr Nayab Haider, the physician at Doctor’s Hospital, said that rising cases of stunting mean that the children were not being fed properly.
“It also indicates that they do not have enough protein, which means either they could not afford meat and other protein rich products or there is a dearth of the said commodities.”

Former director of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for Pakistan Marc-André Franche, in his final analysis about Pakistan, stated that one cannot have a country with 38 percent poverty and primitive state institution. He blamed the elites of the country for having snatched the rights of the people in their desire to keep them poor.

“I am not surprised by what has been found out by the PND or by UNDP. It was long in coming. Pakistan has been neglecting its human resource. It shows the priority we give to our future generation who would eventually take the country forward,” Saeed Shafqat, Policy Analyst at Forman Christian College Lahore, told this to News Lens Pakistan.

Shafqat further said, “Your children are dying and becoming deformed, and you are preparing National Action Plan. Why not to improve the existing infrastructure of hospitals and mother care centers?”

Talking about lady health workers, he said, “We have an army of trained lady health workers. The task of improving the health and survival of a mother and child could be given to them.”

To the experts, it is appalling that being an agriculture country Pakistan is not able to nourish its children and women.

Economist and former Finance Minister, Salman Shah, says, “This is the manifestation of poverty in the country. Eighty percent of Pakistan’s poor population lives in the rural areas which depend on agriculture”

Talking about areas where malnutrition is high, Shah said the indicators of agriculture are not very encouraging. “Child mortality is high in Thar, Cholistan, Bahawalpur, Laki Marwat, Balochistan, and Southern KP. Most of these areas are located in the heartland of Indus Basin, but we have failed to extend the irrigation system to these regions.”

Giving a gory picture of government’s negligence he informed News Lens Pakistan that almost 20,000 Acre of land had been left unattended and without irrigation for the last 40 years.

Shedding light on the government’s laidback attitude, he said, “We have shown the same disregard to the farmers. No serious agriculture reform and policy intervention were initiated to increase per acre yield; develop high yielding seeds, build farm to market infrastructure and simplify credit system for farmers and subsidize agricultural inputs. In this scenario people living in rural areas are bound to remain malnourished and produce either still or stunted children.

According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, during the fiscal year 2016, the performance of the agriculture sector witnessed a negative growth of 0.19 percent.


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