Pakistan’s Gender Gap- Time to Act


 Pakistan’s Gender Gap - Time to Act

Prof. Emeritus Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar
Former Surgeon General Pak Army

The global gender gap has ranked Pakistan as the 2nd worst on its list of 145 countries, two years in a row. This index, tries to quantify the magnitude of gender disparity and tracks their progress over time with a specific focus on the relative gap between women and men, across four key areas: health, education, economy and politics.

In fact Pakistan has never done well on this index. Since the index was published first in 2006. The world’s prestigious and the oldest medical journal ‘The Lancet’ published a report in 2016 based on worldwide studies revealing that Pakistan has the worst still birth rate in the world with 40 per 1000 deliveries- world average is 14 per 1000 still births means death of the foetus after 3rd month of pregnancy to the last day of pregnancy. Even Yemen and Syria embroiled in conflicts have less still births. The Journal placed a prominent heading- ‘Pakistan is the worst place in the world for a woman to become pregnant’ It should shake Pakistan. Every woman needs 400 micrograms of folic acid daily even while trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy especially in the 1st trimester to prevent neural tube defects in the foetus. This medicine should cost only a few paisas per day, is not available while expensive preparations of folic acid costing in rupees containing unnecessary even harmful constituents are sold in the market- which the large majority of women cannot afford so cannot take it.

Prof. Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar

Likewise iron deficiency anaemia is very common in women due to lack of proper nutrition. During pregnancy it gets worse because of higher requirements affecting the mothers and foetus health adversely. Its rational treatment is to have “Ferrous Sulphate” tab containing 60 mg elemental iron costing only a few paisas, is not available while irrational preparations even harmful containing many unnecessary even harmful constituents are flooding the market beyond the reach of the common people- thus depriving treatment with occurrences of serious consequences. Furthermore non- availability of portable water causes gastro-intestinal infections with bacteria and parasites (many nutrient consuming iron further compounds the situation. Nutritious diet is expensive in Pakistan. In our social milieu girl child and women are deprived of good nutrition, they need a better diet. Likewise first line affordable antibacterials like Penicillin V, cloxacillin/flucoxacillin furadantins are not available, infections cannot be treated with dire consequences.

It is pertinent to point out these simple affordable preps are available in all the developing countries in the form of Essential Medicines recommended by the WHO expert panels and furthermore these medicines are supplied without cost to the poor people by the countries. In the SAARC, Pakistan is the only country not following the World Health Organization essential medicines list- resultantly has worse health indicators in the world. The reason is no political will to help the common people. The materialistic virus is prevalent in people of the country. It is high time that Essential Medicine System is introduced in the country to mitigate people’s miseries and save lives. Pakistan should have pro-people policies and become a social welfare democratic state as envisaged by the founder of the Nation.