Sunday June 26, 2022

National Neonatal Care Policy on the cards

March 12, 2022
National Neonatal Care Policy on the cards

LAHORE: The Prime Minister’s Taskforce on Health has decided to initiate a countrywide survey to assess the capacity of newborn care in all districts of Pakistan and to formulate a National Neonatal Care Policy to reduce infant and child mortality, which is still high as compared to most of the developing countries in the world, senior paediatricians and experts told an international scientific conference on Friday.

The Unicef and other international organizations still consider Pakistan as one of the worst countries for delivering a baby where under five child mortality in 2021 was 70 to 75 children per 1000 live births, of which 50 per cent died in the first 28 days of their birth, they said and called for a national strategy to reduce child and infant mortality in Pakistan by introducing some key interventions at district levels.

They were speaking at the 7th Asia Pacific Congress of Paediatrics organized by the Pakistan Paediatric Association here at a local hotel, which was attended by senior paediatricians and health experts from Canada, Thailand, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Middle Eastern and Far-Eastern countries. Delivering his talk on newborn survival in the low and middle income countries, Prof Zulfiqar Bhutta said in South Asia, Pakistan has the highest newborn mortality rate, adding that prematurity, birth complications including asphyxia and infections are responsible for 85 per cent of newborn deaths in Pakistan.

“And most of these newborn deaths are preventable by establishing maternal, neonatal and child health facilities and innovations at district levels in Pakistan,” he said but deplored that one of the leading cause of newborn mortality is gender disparity as baby girls often don’t get healthcare as compared to attention given to boys by their parents. Bhutta informed that for every 1000 children born in Pakistan, 70 don’t live to see their 5th birthday. Out of those, 35 die in the first month of their life and of them, 27 die in the first week and 20 of 27 on the first day. He said now authorities are in the process of reversing this trend by initiating joint efforts by the PM’s Taskforce, federal health ministry, National Institute of Health and private organizations like Aga Khan University.

He also highlighted the potential of antenatal steroids, Kangro Mother Care approach where mothers are encouraged to keep their premature babies close to their bodies for a long period during their early days and weeks and emollient therapy for prevention of infections and deaths among the newborns in the world.

Calling for vaccinating all children of five years and above with Covid-19 vaccines in the country, Bhutta said children and adolescents suffered both physically, socially and mentally during the pandemic as they were deprived of education and socializing with their peers, which will have long-term impacts on their lives.

Other experts during different scientific sessions called for improving routine immunization in the country, provision of clean drinking water for children as water-borne diseases and infections are a major cause of deaths among children in the rural and remote areas of the country. They called for establishment of paediatric healthcare facilities at district headquarters hospitals, saying that in the absence of healthcare facilities near their abodes, many children develop complications which are hard to treat when such children are brought to tertiary-care health facilities in the major cities.

The scientific sessions were addressed by General Aamer Ikram from National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, General Secretary PPA Dr Khalid Shafi, Prof Iqbal Memon, Executive Director Sindh Institute of Child Health and Neonatology (SICH) Prof Jamal Raza and dozens of other local and foreign experts.

Earlier, the conference was inaugurated by Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid on Thursday night where she said Punjab is the only province which has established the Child Health University to initiate indigenous research in the area of child health sciences as at the moment, most of the physicians and surgeons are relying on the data and research from the developed countries.