KARACHI  - Breastfeeding and community case management can save lives of thousands of children under-five suffering from pneumonia and diarrhea, disclosed speakers at the seminar ‘Diarrhea and Pneumonia: Global Action Plan and Implications for Pakistan’ held at Aga Khan University on Thursday.

 The event was held to locally promote and implement the ‘Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea’ formulated by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation earlier this year.

 The interventions outlined in GAPPD are based on evidence generated by a special series on preventable deaths by pneumonia and diarrhea published in The Lancet. The project looked at data from 75 high burden countries and was led by Dr Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Founding Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, AKU and Dr Jai K Das, Senior Instructor, Division of Women and Child Health, AKU. Other collaborators included John Hopkins University, Sick Kids Toronto, Boston University and WHO.

 Even though globally lesser number of children are dying before reaching their fifth birthday, in Pakistan the rate is still 89 deaths per 1,000 live births — much higher than the average global rate two decades ago. To be even able to meet Millennium Development Goal 4, Pakistan would have to slash down the under-five mortality rate by 45 per cent – a humungous and intimidating task to say the least.

 Talking about the study findings vis-à-vis Pakistan and the province of Sindh, Dr Bhutta said that official and unofficial data about key indicators for the well-being of children populations are abysmal.

 “Despite the obvious difference in population sizes, Sindh along with Punjab has the highest rate of deaths in infants: 81 per 1,000 live births each,” Dr Bhutta revealed. “Unfortunately, Sindh leads other provinces with both the highest number of cases of diarrhea as well as the highest number of deaths in children under five (101 per 1,000).”

As far as city-wise performance is concerned, the urban areas and semi-urban areas of Karachi, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Khairpur, Ghotki, Larkana and Shikarpur displayed relatively better child well-being indicators as compared to the rural and under-developed areas of Badin, Mirpurkhas, Thatta and Jacobabad.