Islamabad : Pakistan is a country where mother and child mortality is hitting alarming levels. According to an estimate, over 400,000 mothers and children under the age of five die of preventable causes every year in Pakistan and over 175,000 of these deaths are related to malnutrition.
Nutrition expert Saeedul Hassan says malnourished children have a higher risk of death from common childhood illness such as diarrhoea, pneumonia etc. Nutrition-related factors contribute to about 45% of deaths in children under 5 years of age, he said.
Talking to ‘The News’, he said economic consequences of malnutrition including lost labourers, healthcare expenses and lower productivity cost Pakistan $7.6 billion, or 3 per cent of GDP, every year.
A profound poet and prolific writer, he said that Human Development Foundation (HDF), the organization he worked with as executive director, has launched “Umeed Say Aagay” initiative to save these mothers and children from dying. “We can do it. Close to 90% of the deaths are preventable in Pakistan and this is the driving force for us,” he said. He has been successful in bringing the government and other stakeholders together “to foster a healthy community, where everyone is optimally nourished and where no mother or child dies due to any preventable cause especially malnutrition”.
He said the HDF campaign is not a standalone initiative or a one-off activity. “HDF is scaling up successes of its proven and highly cost- effective model of Mother and Child Wellness Programme which has successfully reduced the IMR, CMR, and MMR to less than 50% of the countrywide rates fighting numerous preventable diseases in over 300 villages located across Pakistan,” he said.
He said they are focused on women of child bearing ages (14-49), newborns and children up to 5 years of age living in the areas where HDF and partners are already working.
He said, “Comprising three years (2018-2020), the first phase of the campaign has been time-framed as the mobilisation phase to “gain the momentum” with yearly review of the progress. The second phase spans 5 years (2021-25) to ‘sustain the momentum’.”
In his poetry, Hassan goes into dialogue between a yet-to-be-born baby, her mother and society members. The baby tries to educate the society why it is vital to take care of her mother, especially during her pregnancy days.
Hassan is a rabble rising to break the taboos the society nurtures against women. He said that he is hopeful that Umeed Se Aagay will go a long way in educating family members of child-bearing age to take care of expecting mothers.
“I have been to almost all parts of Pakistan. It hurts me sometime when NGO people are unmindful of cultural sensitivities. They keep the subjects of their campaigns at an arm’s length. Then how can you expect results?” he questioned.
Hassan is a guy who leads his team from the front. One thing is certain - he will not give up working for humanity and no one single campaign can define him.