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Women’s health

In its first ever global report on health care for women, from birth to death, the WHO has highlighted that women too often fail to receive the care they need, notably in adolescence and old-age. It also identifies child birth and preventable cancers as a key risk to the health of women.

This of course has particular significance for us in Pakistan. We have plenty of evidence from NGOs, international organizations and the government itself as well which indicate how women lose their lives unnecessarily as a result of their lack of access to medical care. The maternal mortality rate, standing at around 500 deaths for every 100,000 births, is among the highest in the region. The rate of complications linked to pregnancy is higher still.

The low status of women in society of course means their needs receive limited attention within households. Researchers find that sick girl-children are less likely to be taken to a doctor than their male counterparts; in some families they eat less too than the men. Doctors working among IDPs have reported many women who had never encountered medical practitioners.

Many suffered anaemia or nutritional deficiencies. The same pattern can of course be found countrywide. It is not linked to levels of income alone but also to social taboos which prevent breast cancer being spoken about or awareness raised about the importance of early detection. The comprehensive WHO report should act as a trigger encouraging us to think more deeply about these issues. The finding that women make up the majority of the world’s elderly too points to a need for a greater focus on ensuring they receive the care they need and that government policy encompasses the need to provide them with this.
Source: The News
Date:11/17/2009

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