ISLAMABAD - The United Nations children’s agency has declared Pakistan as the riskiest country for newborns, saying that out of every 1,000 babies born in Pakistan, 46 die before the end of their first month.
UNICEF released the findings Tuesday as part of its global awareness campaign to demand and deliver solutions on behalf of the world’s newborns.
Pregnant women are much less likely to receive assistance during delivery in Pakistan, where 14 skilled health professionals are available for every 10,000 people, according to the report.
It acknowledged the percentage of mothers who give birth in a health facility in Pakistan increased from 21 percent to 48 percent between 2001 and 2013. It also noted the proportion of women giving birth with a skilled attendant during the same period more than doubled from 23 percent to 55 percent.
“But despite these remarkable increases, largely the result of rapid urbanization and the proliferation of private sector providers not subject to satisfactory oversight, Pakistan’s very high newborn mortality rate fell by less than one quarter, from 60 in 2000 to 46 in 2016,” according to UNICEF’s findings.
Critics have long called for increasing the health budget in Pakistan, which spends less than one percent of its GDP on health services, as opposed to the World Health Organization benchmark of at least six percent of the GDP to ensure basic and life saving services.
After Pakistan, the Central African Republic and war-shattered Afghanistan are the next most dangerous countries for newborns, according to UNICEF. Poverty, conflict and weak institutions in these countries are cited as primary reasons for the alarming number of newborn deaths.
Millions of young lives could be saved every year, the report noted, if mothers and babies had access to affordable, quality health care, good nutrition and clean water.
More than 80 percent of newborn deaths, the report said, are the result of premature birth, complications during labor and delivery, and infections such as sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia.
“But far too often, even these basics are out of reach of the mothers and babies who need them most.”