Despite efforts to reduce infant mortality rate in the country, Pakistan still ranks among the ten countries in the world with the highest infant deaths. A study published in The Lancet medical journal highlighted the inequality in children’s death among the 194 countries it studied, and a whopping sixty per cent of the world’s 5.9 million children who died before their fifth birthday last year, belonged to 10 countries in Asia and Africa even though the number of under-five deaths fell by 4m compared to 2010.

This continuous and disturbing trend points to the prevalence of pneumonia in the country and the lack of protection against it. Pakistan is the seventh country in the world where every year 90,000 children die at the age of five due to pneumonia. Even though a vaccination for pneumonia is available for all children by the state, people are not aware of its importance and access to hospitals is not available for every child. The pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smithkline, is currently funding and running large scale awareness campaigns for the importance of pneumonia vaccines; an appreciable measure to say the least. If only the government showed more commitment to the cause as well, thousands of lives could be saved.

To reduce the infant mortality rate breastfeeding should be encouraged along with vaccines for pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea, as well as improving water and sanitation to help with children’s survival. Family planning, better nutrition and treatment of childhood illnesses are all important factors contributing to improving conditions. Another very important measure is to ensure that trained and equipped health workers attend every birth, and user fees for maternal and newborn health services are removed. Pharmaceutical companies can do more by increasing the availability of products for the poorest new mothers. The government must reaffirm its commitment to saving the lives of young children.