The State Of SDG-3 In Pakistan – OpEd


Agenda 2030 is a global plan that intends to achieve a wide range of targets regarding intricate issues confronting humanity in achieving sustainable development. This includes promoting health and well-being around the world and preserving the environment to make economic advancements sustainable.

SDG-3, with wide a range of indicators, stands as a beacon that aims to ensure good health and well-being around the globe. In this regard, Pakistan is committed to achieve the targets of this goal to enhance the health of the general populace. However, delving into the specificities of this goal in Pakistan depicts a concerning picture as the country is lagging behind other developing countries and global targets. With only seven years left for the agenda, the country still has a long way to go to meet the targets. Thus, the authorities need to prioritize the localization process of SDG-3 to be on track for meeting its targets. 

The first significant target of SDG-3 aims to reduce the maternal mortality rate to less than 70 per 100,000 births. Though Pakistan has made a significant improvement in the reduction of cases of MMR from 521 in 1990 to 178 in 2021, but still, it is lagging behind the global target. In addition, these rates are very high in certain provinces, specifically in Balochistan, where MMR is 298 per 100000 children’s live births. This reflects that the ineffective policies and lack of proper implementation plans by the authorities have contributed to MMR remaining a prominent issue in Pakistan.

In addition, the rate is very high in the rural areas of Pakistan because of inefficient implementation strategies that fail to give tangible results. Moreover, the lack of monitoring and evaluation methods makes it difficult to track progress and identify problem areas. On the other hand, terrorism, instability, conflicts, and insecurity are other factors that impede the country from improving its MMR rate. In the existence of such issues, it will be an arduous task for the country to meet the global target. 

The second target is to reduce neonatal mortality rates to less than 12 deaths per 1000 live births and 25 deaths per 1000 for children under five years. In this context, with a child mortality rate of 65.2 per 1000, Pakistan is among the countries with the highest rates of death for children under five, above the global average of 37 deaths per 1000 live births as of 2020. Furthermore, Pakistan’s infant mortality rate leads the world with 56.9/1000 livebirths, much above the global recorded IMR of 26.7 per 1000 as of 2022. The greater percentage of child mortality is due to the country’s high rate of poverty, poor sanitization and healthcare facilities, and low levels of education, particularly among women in rural areas. 

The third target is to eradicate hepatitis, water-borne diseases, and other communicable diseases by 2030 and to eliminate the epidemics of AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Pakistan is having abysmal record when it comes to all these diseases, and it seems unlikely that it will ever be able to stop the spread of these diseases. With a 75% increase in the number of new HIV infections between 2010 and 2019, it is the highest rate of growth in Asia and the Pacific, second only to the Philippines. Every year, approximately 25,000 new cases of such diseases are added.

Furthermore, Pakistan is the country with the fifth-highest worldwide burden of tuberculosis (TB) and the fourth-highest prevalence of multidrug-resistant TB. On the other hand, after the catastrophic floods in 2022, more than 660,120 cases of snake bites, typhoid, malaria, dengue fever, and acute, watery diarrhea have been documented. With these stark statistics prevalent in the country, it seems almost impossible to reduce cases of such diseases without proper strategy. 

To meet the global agenda for 2030 in SDG-3 it is imperative for the authorities to take urgent measures. It is crucial to design policies for the regions with the highest maternal mortality rates such as Balochistan and for this, localization of strategies is a pre-requisite. Moreover, there is a dire need for policies to be designed at the micro level which will take into consideration the ground realities and complexities. Focus on healthcare facilities, accessibility, and awareness is the need of the hour. To have tangible results it is crucial to have robust monitoring and evaluation systems that ensure the effectiveness of designed strategies and their implementation. To deal with infectious diseases, strengthening the health care system and global collaboration are essential. In a nutshell, to meet the agenda for 2030, there is a dire need for collective efforts both from government and other stakeholders to effectively localize. 

Manahil Bazai

Manahil Bazai is working as an Intern at Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN), Quetta.

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