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Losing a generation: 111 of every 1,000 children in Balochistan die before age 5

By Shezad Baloch

QUETTA: Child mortality rates in Balochistan are the highest in the country, with 111 children of every 1,000 births dying before they reach their fifth birthday. Ninety-seven of these children do not make it to the age of 1 year.

At a meeting on Friday, members of the Balochistan Assembly were provided with these statistics by Provincial Health Minister Rehmat Saleh Baloch, who was briefed by Unicef regarding its latest report, ‘Pakistan Demographic Health Survey’. The speaker, deputy speaker and 40 MPAs, including provincial ministers, were present at the meeting.

The health minister said that 60 per cent of these child deaths occur due to communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases. Additionally, while 39 per cent of union councils in the province do not have vaccination centres, the existing Extended Programme on Immunisation centres are understaffed; 600 additional vaccinators are required at the current EPI centres here.

In comparison with Punjab, where one EPI centre caters to residents within a radius of 62 kilometres, a centre in Balochistan accounts for residents within a 735kms. The Unicef report found that 52.2 per cent of children in the province are chronically malnourished.

The provincial lawmakers were informed that poor oversight, a lack of accountability and political interference had contributed to the current state of children’s health in the province. “The health department has launched an emergency plan for routine immunisations and an accelerated plan for polio vaccinations,” the provincial health minister said, adding that the department’s Health Intervention Plan is based on the idea of ‘Sehatmand Baloch’.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29, 2014.

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