Thursday, September 25, 2014

Over 300,000 children die every year due to malnutrition in Pakistan

Over 300,000 children die every year due to malnutrition in Pakistan

The health sector in Pakistan needs immediate media attention to highlight deteriorating child health issues in particular. The shocking facts are that Pakistan has the highest number of first day child deaths in the world- breastfeeding not increased even 1 per cent in the last five years while malnutrition is affecting half of mothers and children amongst Pakistani population.

Save the Children campaign EVERYONE is aiming to change that and seeks active media support.  For the purpose a two-day training workshop is conducted in Karachi on September 22/23 for health journalists.

Prof. Dr. Iqbal memon, President Pakistan Paediatric Association disclosed that over 450,000 children die before reaching the age of five out of which 300,000 children die every year in Pakistan due to malnutrition this in a seminar on child mortality held by Mishal Pakistan in collaboration with Save the children. He said that in Sindh alone every 3rd new-born child is affected by malnutrition.

The sole purpose is to not only apprise the health reporters and media representatives about the alarming current situation on child and mother health issues which are getting worse because of marginal increase in the health budget which accounts for less than even 1 per cent. Pakistan Medical Association believes that a budgetary allocation of 6 per cent is a minimum to improve mother and child health issues.

Save the Children provincial representative told the training session that it is willing to facilitate media representatives to highlight the issues.

Pakistan’s performance on health and nutrition indicates a deplorable public healthcare system in the country, becoming an impediment to eradicating poverty due to lack of proper governance measures required despite the increase in expenditure to Rs. 102 billion in 2013-14. The Govt since 18th Amendment has been unable to produce a robust policy which is centric to human capital development in the country; said Puruesh Chaudhary, Founder and President AGAHI.

Pakistan is certain to miss targets of Millennium Development goals No 4 & 5 which relates to child and mother mortality in 2015. The targets have now been included in Vision 2025 by the Government of Pakistan, which were supposed to be achieved by 2015.

But as it is said that it is never too late the media, civil society and health organizations can join hands and create a pressure on policy makers to get their priorities right and focus on child health issues.

Breastfeeding stands at a record low of 37.7 per cent in Pakistan while bottle feeding has increased to over 42 per cent showing a sharp rise of over 11 per cent in the past five years as compared to breastfeeding which has registered an increase of .6 per cent in the last five years.

Agahi’s lead trainer Mubashir Zaidi told the training participants that media is acting as an agent of change but seems to be losing its direction by focusing more on politics and conflict areas rather that reporting on social issues that includes health and education. He also asked journalists to make use of social media to create awareness amongst youth to raise their voice for a better health system in Pakistan.  He said editors should also give importance to health stories and encourage reporters to do more health reports

President Karachi Press Club, told the journalists that reporting on health should be enhanced in the media in order to pressure the authorities to improve the health sector. He asked the media to uncover corruption and mismanagement in the hospitals and also highlight negligence on part of some doctors who discourage breastfeeding and suggest bottled milk after getting favours from some companies which promote bottled milk.

Asif Farooqi, Chief Operation Officer for Mishal Pakistan a country partner institute of the Center for Global Competitiveness and Benchmarking Networks of the World Economic Forum, said that this year’s Agahi awards will also be focusing on health reporters for producing relevant content on challenges related to mother and child health.

Syed Nasir Shah, MPA of PPP, who is also the member of Infant Feeding Board told the media that the government is taking all necessary measures to encourage breast-feeding. He distributed certificates among the participants.

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