Pakistan’s child and maternal healthcare are in an abysmal state. A recent study has shown that Pakistan’s stillbirth rate is the worst among a list of 186 countries. With the government’s focus on building roads and trains, one can assume that things will remain the same or become worse.

The study, carried out by academics from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has highlighted that about 7,200 babies are stillborn every day — some 2.6 million per year with half of these deaths occur during delivery. The figures for 2015 represented a meager drop from around 24.7 to 18.4 deaths for every 1,000 total births from the year 2000 to last year- something one should not take as an achievement.

In Pakistan, the majority of stillbirths that occurred in the third trimester of pregnancy were preventable. The authors of the study have highlighted lack of proper care during childbirth as one of the reasons. Treating expectant mothers, who contract infections, including malaria, would help to lower death rates. The idea of a child being alive at the beginning of labour and dying for entirely preventable reasons during the next few hours should be an international health scandal.

Our government quoting the magnanimous amounts of money that is spent on maternal and newborn health is meaningless in the face of these facts. There is lack of round-the-clock services at rural healthcare centres, even basic healthcare units and district hospitals. There is also a dire need for better management, more female doctors, and women being allowed to access healthcare. Not only is this a national tragedy, but we have made an international commitment to this cause as well. One of the clauses of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that Pakistan has promised to meet, is quality maternal health care and we are far from meeting this goal.