The Prime Minister’s Taskforce on Health
has decided to initiate a countrywide survey to assess the capacity of newborn
care in all districts of Pakistan and to formulate a National Neonatal Care
Policy to reduce infant and child mortality, which is still high as compared to
most of the developing countries in the world, senior paediatricians and
experts told an international scientific conference on Friday.

The Unicef and other international
organizations still consider Pakistan as one of the worst countries for
delivering a baby where under five child mortality in 2021 was 70 to 75
children per 1000 live births, of which 50 per cent died in the first 28 days
of their birth, they said and called for a national strategy to reduce child
and infant mortality in Pakistan by introducing some key interventions at
district levels.

They were speaking at the 7th Asia Pacific Congress of Paediatrics
organized by the Pakistan Paediatric Association here at a local hotel, which
was attended by senior paediatricians and health experts from Canada, Thailand,
Malaysia, United Kingdom, Middle Eastern and Far-Eastern countries. Delivering
his talk on newborn survival in the low and middle income countries, Prof
Zulfiqar Bhutta said in South Asia, Pakistan has the highest newborn mortality
rate, adding that prematurity, birth complications including asphyxia and
infections are responsible for 85 per cent of newborn deaths in Pakistan.

“And most of these newborn deaths are preventable by establishing
maternal, neonatal and child health facilities and innovations at district
levels in Pakistan,” he said but deplored that one of the leading cause of
newborn mortality is gender disparity as baby girls often don’t get healthcare
as compared to attention given to boys by their parents. Bhutta informed that
for every 1000 children born in Pakistan, 70 don’t live to see their 5th
birthday. Out of those, 35 die in the first month of their life and of them, 27
die in the first week and 20 of 27 on the first day. He said now authorities
are in the process of reversing this trend by initiating joint efforts by the
PM’s Taskforce, federal health ministry, National Institute of Health and
private organizations like Aga Khan University.

He also highlighted the potential of antenatal steroids, Kangro
Mother Care approach where mothers are encouraged to keep their premature
babies close to their bodies for a long period during their early days and
weeks and emollient therapy for prevention of infections and deaths among the
newborns in the world.

Calling for vaccinating all children of five years and above with
Covid-19 vaccines in the country, Bhutta said children and adolescents suffered
both physically, socially and mentally during the pandemic as they were
deprived of education and socializing with their peers, which will have
long-term impacts on their lives.

Other experts during different scientific sessions called for
improving routine immunization in the country, provision of clean drinking
water for children as water-borne diseases and infections are a major cause of
deaths among children in the rural and remote areas of the country. They called
for establishment of paediatric healthcare facilities at district headquarters
hospitals, saying that in the absence of healthcare facilities near their
abodes, many children develop complications which are hard to treat when such
children are brought to tertiary-care health facilities in the major cities.

The scientific sessions were addressed by General Aamer Ikram from
National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, General Secretary PPA Dr Khalid
Shafi, Prof Iqbal Memon, Executive Director Sindh Institute of Child Health and
Neonatology (SICH) Prof Jamal Raza and dozens of other local and foreign

Earlier, the conference was inaugurated by Punjab Health Minister
Dr Yasmin Rashid on Thursday night where she said Punjab is the only province
which has established the Child Health University to initiate indigenous
research in the area of child health sciences as at the moment, most of the
physicians and surgeons are relying on the data and research from the developed



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