Tuesday, September 23, 2014
From Print Edition
After the passage of 18th Amendment, a board had been set up in Sindh to ensure that formula milk manufacturers inscribed the warning “There is no alternative to breast milk” on every box of the product. However, the industry has challenged this decision of the board arguing that it would cause them losses worth billions of rupees.
This startling disclosure was made by Dr Iqbal Detho, of Save the Children during the first day of two-day workshop on journalism, health and public policy on Monday organised by Mishal, a not-for-profit government organisation.
Detho said billions of rupees were spent on the development sector but not a single rupee was spent on lady health workers.
A report compiled by Save the Children, titled “Ending new born deaths” for 2014 was also presented on the occasion.
According to its findings, Pakistan had the highest ratio of first-day deaths and stillbirths in the world at 40.7 per 1,000 live births, followed by Nigeria (32.7), Sierra Leone (30.8), Somalia (29.7), Guinea-Bissau (29.4) and Afghanistan (29.0).
The report also states that half of these deaths could have been prevented if the children had been beast fed within an hour they were born and less than half of Pakistani women had a skilled health worker present at the time of birth.
On the other hand, in Pakistan, the rate of under-five deaths was 86 per 1,000 live births which was brought down to 52 deaths per 1,000 live births, a difference of just 1.8 percent.
“Child mortality remains one of the great shames of our modern world. Every day, 18,000 children under five die, and most from preventable causes,” the report said.
Senior broadcast journalist, Mubashir Zaidi, said the priority of journalism in Pakistan was tilted towards politics rather than socio-economic issues such as health, which occupied a “supplementary position” in the media.
He said breastfeeding was the right of every child but the formula milk industry had “bribed” doctors to promote formula milk. On the other hand, he said, formula milk was dubbed as “baby killer” in developed countries. He said even the government or health departments did not maintain current records and this was why agencies and the media relied on international or local organisations for research or data.
A Manual for Health Journalism was also distributed at the workshop. It contained the latest statistics on maternal, new born and child health care in Pakistan as compared to the rest of South Asia. Pakistan ranked below all the countries in the region.
It said that every minute marked the death of a child in the country before his or her fifth birthday, often from preventable causes while health remained one of the most under reported sectors in the media. Reducing maternal and child mortality rate was the fourth Millennium Development Goal but neither government nor the media had placed on their priority lists.
Therefore, concluded the speakers, there was an urgent need to train journalists to focus on the issue of health, especially on maternal and child mortality.