ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has the third highest infant mortality rate in the world and there has been absolutely no progress in reducing neonatal mortality, while there is need to focus on reducing neonatal mortality in order to achieve any significant reduction in mortality rate of children under the age of five.

Most of the causes of neonatal mortality are preventable. Low-cost interventions are available which have shown to be effective in countries with similar socioeconomic and health infrastructure. There is a need to implement and upscale these interventions in a way that is likely to work for Pakistan.

The health experts shared these views during a meeting here on Tuesday. The Mother and Child Health Centre (MCH) and Children Hospital of Pakistan Institute of Medial Sciences (PIMS) are planning to hold the 1st International Conference on Women and Child Health on September 12-13, 2014. In this regard an introductory meeting with the stakeholders was held.

Professor Tabish Hazir, head of paediatrics, Children Hospital PIMS, discussed millennium development goal number 4, which stresses for reduction in under 5 mortality by two-third between 1990 and 2015. He pointed out that Pakistan has the third highest infant mortality in the world today and there has been absolutely no progress in reducing neonatal mortality. "So far Pakistan has achieved only one of the five indicators of MDG 4 that is the proportion of children under 5 who suffered from diarrhoea in the last 30 days that should be less than 10 and currently Pakistan stands at 8."

Presenting data that reflected the current situation he said Pakistan is off track in achieving all other indicators pertaining to MDG 4. Pakistan is missing out on 5 indicator under MDG4 as currently under 5 mortality rate (deaths per 1000 live births) stands at 89 whereas the target is 52; infant mortality rate  (deaths per 1000 live births) is 74 while the target is 40; proportion of fully immunised children 12-23 months remains 80 per cent against the target of more than 90 per cent; proportion of under 1 year children immunised against measles is 81 per cent against the target of more than 90 per cent and lady health worker's coverage( percentage of target population) stands at 83 per cent against 100 per cent. He stressed that Pakistan has to focus on reducing neonatal mortality in order to achieve any significant reduction in under 5 mortality.

Professor Syeda Batool Mazhar, head of department MCH Centre, PIMS, briefing on reproductive health with particular reference to MDG 5 said in South Asia, Pakistan has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality figures. "Although Pakistan is unlikely to achieve MDGs 4-5, it is time to identify the factors impeding progress and determine the strategy for future, and work towards Pakistan's development post 2015." Pakistan is one of the few countries where men outnumber women. In 1950 the human sex ratio of men and women was 117 men:100 women in Pakistan but now it is estimated to be close to 108 men to 100 women indicating excess mortality among girls and women of reproductive age, she highlighted.

Though over the past decade, a renewed focus on providing timely and efficient healthcare options to women of child-bearing age is apparent yet Pakistan has shown considerable yet insufficient progress for achieving the targets set for 2015. Currently maternal mortality ratio stands at 276 per 10,0000 births while Pakistan has to reduce it to 140 by 2015, she said. With an aim to start an unprecedented movement to mobilise and intensify international and national action to address the major health challenges facing women and children in Pakistan, PIMS has planned to hold the conference themed "Meeting Maternal & Child Health challenges beyond 2015," said Prof Dr Rana Javed Akram, vice chancellor Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University.

More than fifty international and national experts will attend it with the objective of improving mother and child health indicators in Pakistan which currently are at an unacceptable level, he added.