The latest progress report jointly published by WHO, UNFPA and Unicef ranks Pakistan as the third country with the highest number of maternal deaths, shedding light on the grim reality faced by Pakistani women and newborns. With a combined total of 474,000 maternal deaths, stillbirths and neo-natal deaths in 2020 alone, it is evident that Pakistan’s healthcare system is failing its most vulnerable citizens.
This crisis reflects a range of underlying issues that need to be addressed promptly. One of the key factors contributing to Pakistan’s maternal and newborn health crisis is the lack of investment in healthcare infrastructure and services. Insufficient resources, both human and financial, coupled with inadequate access to skilled birth attendants, hinder the provision of quality care, particularly in rural areas. Cultural and societal factors also play a significant role. Gender disparities, limited access to education and traditional practices often prevent women from seeking timely and appropriate healthcare. Therefore, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education programmes are crucial to empower women with knowledge and enable them to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. To address this crisis, Pakistan must prioritise maternal and newborn health on the national agenda. Increasing investment in healthcare, particularly in the training and deployment of skilled healthcare professionals, is imperative. Moreover, efforts should be made to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure, particularly in impoverished regions. By improving the availability and accessibility of quality maternal and newborn healthcare services, lives can be saved.
Pakistan cannot afford to ignore its maternal and newborn health crisis. The future of the nation relies on the well-being of its mothers and newborns. Immediate action must be taken to address the systemic challenges and ensure that every woman and child has the right to quality healthcare.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2023.