The UN children’s agency has singled out Pakistan as the riskiest country for newborns, saying that for every 1,000 infants, 46 die at birth. Unicef’s report said that after Pakistan, the Central African Republic is the next riskiest country for newborns, while Afghanistan is third.
The report said: “ Babies born in Japan, Iceland and Singapore have the best chance at survival, while newborns in Pakistan, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan face the worst odds.”
The leading cause for this is complications due to premature birth, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition. Pakistanis the seventh country in the world where 90,000 children die at 5 years to pneumonia annually. Even though a vaccination for pneumonia is available for all children in the country but people are not aware of its importance and access to hospitals is not easy for every child. According to UNICEF and WHO, out of 10, less than two mothers are engaged in early breast-feeding in Pakistan and this is one of the lowest rates of breast-feeding in the world.
If a child survived at the time of birth then infant feeding practice is an important factor in determining growth and development of a child. For healthy mothers exclusive breast-feeding of infants for up to 6 months is recommended. And at this time when breast milk is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of the child especially for energy and micro-nutrients complementary feeding process is expected to begin. Generally, the risk of malnutrition in the first 2 years of life has been directly linked with poor breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices of mothers together with high rate of infectious diseases.
In Pakistan, fewer than half of women had a skilled health worker present at birth. " In many cases, small but crucial interventions can save lives in danger. Skilled care during labour could reduce the number of stillbirths during labour by 45% and prevent 43% of newborn deaths,” the report said. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities has a wide range of impact on children’s health and the current status of sanitation and poor hygiene practices has led to significant public costs, such as premature deaths, economic and financial costs due to diseases attributable to poor sanitation, environmental costs, and other welfare costs.
The researcher recommended breast-feeding vaccines for pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea as well as improving water and sanitation to help with children’s survival. Family planning, better nutrition and treatment of childhood illnesses are important factors contributing to improving conditions. Another very important measure to ensure is trained and equipped health workers attend every birth. Pharmaceutical companies can do more by increasing the availability of products for underprivileged new mothers.