Any country’s biggest potential are its people and those countries that invest in human capital pay rich dividends. Pakistan has one of the lowest Human Development Indicators for South Asia with a recent report by Lancet painting a distressing picture of our health infrastructure
According to the study by Lancet, “Pakistan ranks among the worst nations, with 14.3 percent preterm births. Preterm babies are at high risk of death. Those who survive are likely to suffer disability and developmental delays, and even chronic illnesses.”
Pakistan also has shockingly high figures for stunting. “According to the World Bank over 40 percent of children under five in Pakistan are stunted. The South Asian average stands at 31 percent. Stunting not only hampers physical growth but also impairs cognitive development, leading to reduced educational outcomes and productivity in adulthood. If left unchecked, it will render vast swathes of our population unable to contribute to Pakistan’s progress.”
Why has this happened?
The answer, according to an editorial in Dawn “Year after year, health expenditure remains inadequate, sidelined in favour of more ‘immediate’ concerns. While public health initiatives exist, they lack the reach, consistency and monitoring necessary to make a lasting impact. The situation is exacerbated by the rural-urban divide, with remote regions deprived of even basic healthcare. Environmental challenges, such as flooding and locust attacks, have compounded the problem. Socioeconomic factors must also be considered. There is limited awareness about maternal nutrition, poor antenatal care, deep-rooted beliefs that prevent the consumption of a varied diet by expecting mothers, early marriages, and the practice of feeding boys more than girls. All these contribute to both preterm births and stunting.”