More needs to be done to prevent thousands of children's dealths in Pakistan, says UNICEF at the launch of 'The State of the World's Children Report 2008'.
Islamabad, 23 January 2008 – The launch of UNICEF's flagship publication, The State of the World’s Children Report 2008: Child Survival, today highlighted the importance of coordinated actions at family, community and government levels to reduce the number of children who die before their fifth birthday in Pakistan and around the world. At present, it is estimated that in Pakistan alone more than 420,000 children under five years of age die every year mostly due to preventable diseases, that is more than a 1,100 deaths a day. Of them, more than six out of ten of these children are under one month of age. In Asia, Pakistan occupies the third higher place in the under five mortality rate ranking under Afghanistan and Myanmar.
"Many child deaths are preventable through simple and affordable measures," said Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF Country Representative for Pakistan. "Our own experience with the Ministry of Health and other partners has shown that universal vaccination, breastfeeding, access to health care for women during childbirth and proper sanitation can save countless lives."
Pakistan has many examples such as the Government’s country-wide vaccination programmes to prevent polio and measles, initiatives to improve access to health services for mothers and newborns babies as well as the Lady Health Worker programme that brings door-to-door basic healthcare and hygiene education to millions of families.
However, more efforts are needed to save the lives of the thousands of children under the age of five who die needlessly every year. Among the main challenges is to improve health services for mothers and newborn babies. Less than a third of deliveries in Pakistan take place in the presence of a skilled birth attendant, that is a doctor, a nurse or a midwife. As a consequence, a woman dies every twenty minutes of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. This means that 320 of every 100,000 live births in Pakistan result in the mother's death and many more in the death of newborn babies. The figure rises to above 600 in Balochistan. To reduce the number of child deaths, it is vital that mothers receive high quality medical care, education and nutritious food.
Child survival depends upon creating a network of healthcare and support. This extends from the family level – where parents are informed about good childcare practices – to the community, and must be backed up by strong and effective healthcare systems which can ensure that simple and affordable life-saving interventions reach every child efficiently.
The report shows that there has already been considerable progress. In Pakistan, a measles vaccination campaign by the Government, supported by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners reached 30 million children in 2007, bringing the cases of measles down to nearly half those in 2006.
"Providing children with a healthy foundation for life is essential to their future and the future of the country," said Mogwanja. "By ensuring that every child and mother has access to good healthcare, nutrition and sanitation, Pakistan can be assured of building a solid foundation for a stronger nation."
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. In Pakistan and elsewhere, it has provided vital relief and reconstruction support to help individuals rebuild their lives after emergencies. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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