Pakistan’s abysmal record when it comes to healthcare and child mortality rates shows no signs of abating. On 24th October, World Polio Day exposed Pakistan as the last remaining stronghold of the paralysing disease. Now, as the globe observed World Pneumonia Day, Pakistan is making headlines again, for all the wrong reasons. In a report released by the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia, Pakistan ranks third for the most number of pneumonia related deaths of children in the world, with 71,000 losing their life to the respiratory disease. Once again Pakistan takes its place amongst struggling sub-Saharan countries when it comes to health standards. Neighbouring India, with a similar cultural and political background, tops the list with 174,000 deaths per year, yet compared to Pakistan it is doing well considering its gargantuan population.

As with polio, the hurdles in curbing pneumonia are chiefly our own apathy and failing institutions. Pneumonia is combated in a variety of ways, vaccinations against various bacterial and viral diseases is usually effective. The other major method is reducing air pollution; having ventilated rooms when cooking with wood or dung, and curbing passive smoking. Once contracted, effective medical care, rest and a few antibiotics are usually enough to heal the person. Therefore much more than polio, which had its unique issues with vaccination campaigns, the spread of pneumonia is a damning picture of our healthcare system as a whole. Lack of proper medical facilities, especially away from urban centres, badly constructed sewage systems, lack of adequately stocked medicine cabinets and a lack of simple awareness campaigns, educating people towards proper hygiene and air ventilation betray just how casually the government treats the threat of diseases. And as with polio the solution requires basic management and a little empathy, a rare commodity on Pakistan. Our country is fast becoming a global cesspool of all sorts of diseases. With Pakistan already in the news for uncontrolled militancy, it is appalling that it is doing the same with healthcare.