Not long ago we heard terrible news of infants dying of starvation by the hundreds in interior Sindh with the authorities more concerned about defending themselves than helping the children. More recently children died needless deaths from waterborne diseases and the swine flu in Punjab. And now, with the whole world in audience, we are found to be the country with the largest number of avoidable stillbirths on the planet. The report comes from the reputable British health journal, The Lancet, which is taken quite seriously in important quarters. It also notes that we are not just the world leader in this shameful statistic, but are also double the international average.
A number of factors contribute to this phenomenon. Primarily, of course, there are medical reasons. Preventable issues like malaria, hypertension and often undiagnosed pregnancy related diabetes in the final trimester lead to such tragic ends, and the most basic medical treatment can make the difference between life and death. That we are the worst in the world when it comes to provision of such simple care speaks volumes about our priorities as a nation. There are other contributing factors as well. Our society still encourages early marriages and many children, not taking into account the ability of young, often malnourished girls to sustain such pressure.
The common theme in all factors is the government’s inability to do its basic job. When it focuses more on mega projects and Orange Lines, diverting important funds to infrastructure at the cost of the people, such outcomes are unavoidable. It is worse that they fail to stir any soul-searching within government circles. On social issues too, the Assembly’s decision to thwart proposed legislation against child marriages, for example, the government’s weakness is more than exposed. Those in charge must realise that the nation’s future is being compromised under their watch. So far, on this count, the performance has been shameful.