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- Thursday, October 24, 2013 - From Print Edition




About 240 children in Pakistan joined the world’s biggest marathon by Save the Children, calling for government to address health worker crisis.


To urge immediate action on this issue, 240 children; 120 in Islamabad, 60 in Muzaffargarh (Punjab) and 60 in Sanghar (Sindh) ran a relay marathon, aiming to beat the record of Kenyan athlete Patrick Makau, who covered 42.195 kilometres in a time of 2 hours 3 minutes and 38 seconds. The global marathon, known as the Race for Survival, involved 50,000 children from 67 countries worldwide, making it the largest ever event organised for children.


Save the Children stressed that Pakistan must address its health worker crisis in order to accelerate progress in tackling preventable child deaths.


In a new report launched here Wednesday, ‘Lives on the Line’, the children’s charity revealed that the lack of health workers has caused weak routine immunisation and for common childhood illnesses to go untreated, resulting in consistently high rates of child deaths especially in rural and urban slum areas.


Save the Children in Pakistan Country Director David Skinner said in his opening remarks that ‘Every hour of every day, 40 children in Pakistan die before celebrating their fifth birthday, one of the highest rates in the world’. He stressed that health workers are absolutely essential to end preventable child deaths, and they are crucial in delivering newborns, giving out routine immunisation, diagnosing and treating common childhood diseases and providing nutrition advice to mothers.


The race then officially began with Nasir Iqbal, Pakistan’s National Squash champion, Farhan Mehboob, Pakistan’s Number 2 Squash player, Jamshed Gul, National Squash Coach and David Skinner, Country Director Save the Children in Pakistan, as they led the 4 teams and passed the batons on to the children.


Children were also mobilised as active advocates on this issue who met with their local officials to explain why child survival is an urgent issue in Pakistan, provide recommendations that are simple, proven and cost-effective. Across Pakistan, Save the Children works to improve health access through the training of Lady Health Workers that help deliver babies safely and diagnose and treat common childhood illnesses.


According to Save the Children, Pakistan will not achieve its United Nations Millennium Development Goal target of reducing child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 without urgent political commitment to invest in the quantity and quality of health workers.