My Editorial in the Month of May, 2019 for Balochistan Times
The International Mothers’ day was observed this Sunday on 12th May across the globe to highlight the sanctity of persona of mother without whom no home is complete. The day also found much publicity in mainstream and social media n Pakistan. Tragically, apart from the innate affection and love that everyone feels for mothers, the lives of mothers seem least secure in Pakistan in general and in this ever simmering province that is battered by crises of all sorts in particular. According to Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS), Balochistan stands first in terms of Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) when compared to other provinces. A large number of women lose the battle for life during delivery of pregnancies or even before owing to unplanned pregnancies and lack of healthcare facilities. As many as 785, as the PDHS quotes, mothers die on every 100,000 delivery cases in Balochistan compared to 272 mothers in rest of Pakistan.
There are multiple reasons for the high mortality rate of mothers during pregnancies in Balochistan. To count a few, the mothers die because of lack of proper health facilities in government owned hospitals and if luckily any hospitals are there, the presence of gynecologists is a rare case in those hospitals round the clock. Even in the provincial capital the conditions of the public hospitals are pathetic. The second reason is unplanned pregnancies and underage marriages that are rampant in the society. The unplanned pregnancies can best be avoided through proper counseling and access to the modern contraception methods. But the service outlets of the concerned departments, Population Welfare, Health Department and People’s Primary Healthcare Initiative, seem either insufficient or inactive in terms of covering the population of eligible couples and providing them the necessary guidance for planning a pregnancy.
The contraceptive prevalence rate in Balochistan remains lowest and therefore the population growth rate of the province is much higher than the other provinces in the results of census 2017 shared by Bureau of Statistic Pakistan, standing at 3.7 per cent against the national 2 per cent. Such alarming figures regarding the safety of mothers in Balochistan should have set alarm bells off in the province and by now all the allied departments working on the reproductive health should been working on war-footings to provide the contraceptive access as well as counseling to eligible couples in Balochistan at their very doorstep. But it seems the priorities of the government are different.
As Pakistan is a signatory to various international commitments, including Family Planning (FP) 2020, and Sustainable Development Goals, the government should necessarily come up with a plan to establish reproductive health facilities in each union council of the province at the very least so that the mothers get unbridled access to the contraceptive facilities as owing to large territory access to the facilities is a big issue in Balochistan. Moreover, the government should also engage the media and civil society to sensitise the eligible couples regarding the benefits of child spacing and use of safe contraceptives. Underage marriages may not very easily be curbed in the province owing to opposition and other social barriers yet making the education of reproductive healthcare a part of curriculum for girls of mature age can be a good option to educate them about the hazards they shall soon be facing following their marriages. Healthy mothers can make and healthy society and therefore government should leave no stone unturned in securing mothers in Balochistan to lay the foundations of a secure society in the province.