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Pregnancy-related deaths blamed on society’s apathy

KARACHI: About 30,000 women die every year in Pakistan from pregnancy-related complications. Their death does not seem to bother society, especially the people at the helm of affairs. Most women do not die of diseases, but because of indifference of the society, that has yet to make a decision that women’s lives are worth saving.

Ironically, the incumbent rulers, like the successive governments, have so far shown no serious interest in the issues concerning maternal health. It’s not the matter of resources, rather of a will.

This was the gist of the speeches, observations and presentations made at a discussion on maternal health at the PMA House on Saturday. The programme was organised by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan (SOGP) and the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA).

Giving some figures on maternal death, Dr Nusrat Shah, a gynecologist at the Civil Hospital Karachi and an associate professor at the Dow University of Health Sciences, informed the audience that one woman dies every 30 minutes and around 375,000 suffer from pregnancy-related complications annually in Pakistan.

Referring to a research conducted at her hospital, she said that 104 women died from pregnancy-related complications in three years at the CHK’s gynecology ward. Though most of these women died due to excessive bleeding, high blood pressure and infections, their deaths were actually caused by a number of socio-economic factors, she said, adding that the factors included poverty, low status of women in society and a lack of education.

“Our women are highly anaemic and repeated pregnancies, most of the time without their consent, adversely affect their health status. Most poor women deliver at homes in unhygienic conditions at the hands of unskilled birth attendants. These practices add to maternal mortality and morbidity,” Dr Nusrat Shah said.

No woman should die while producing another life and every pregnancy should be a wanted one, and this could be done only through proper family planning, she concluded.

Criticising the government, Dr Shershah Syed of the SOGP said that the incentive-based approach of the government officials would never yield any result. “There is no shortage of resources in the country and it’s only that the priority of the government is somewhere else. The solution to the many ills plaguing the country lies in universal primary education, alleviation of poverty and empowerment of women.”

Dr Shah also censured the media for not highlighting the real public issues properly and instead focusing on the so-called political wrangling and more recently on a war of allegations between retired generals and politicians.

“A lot of time is being wasted on these debates, but who is being served? Not the public at least,” he observed.

Advocating the cause of women’s health, Dr Shah said the hardest hit in Pakistan were poor rural women. “When a mother dies, the entire family is affected. Researches have shown that the small children left behind either die, if they are not able to take care of themselves, or are abused in some way or other in society.”

Dr Asif Aslam representing the Sindh Unicef and Dr Samrina Hashmi the PMA also spoke.
Source: Dawn
Date:9/7/2009

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