The Declining Situation Of Human Development In Balochistan – OpEd
Human development is the process of enhancing ordinary people’s freedom, opportunities, and well-being, which enables them to decide who they want to be, what they want to do, and how they want to live. It plays a crucial role in achieving sustainable economic growth and development.
In the past, many developing countries have invested in their human development and achieved economic sustainability. Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq introduced this concept after the failure of GDP to adequately portray the true essence of well-being to measure the extent of human development, economists use the Human Development Index (HDI), which combines indicators of health, education, and standard of living. The HDI emphasizes the fact that people and their needs should be the ultimate criteria for assessing a country’s development, rather than economic growth alone. Countries or districts that fall under 0.800 or above are considered to have a very high HDI, with 0.700-0.799 being high, 0.555-0.699 being medium, and 0.555 or below is low. Anything below 0.400 is considered very low.
In this context, Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan in terms of area and has a population of 12.34 million. Unfortunately, despite its size, it has the lowest Human Development Index score in the country. The province consists of 32 districts, and none of them falls under the very high or high category. Only the capital city of Quetta (0.666) falls under the medium category, while the other 10 districts fall in the low category, and the remaining fall in the very low category. This situation is further reflected in Pakistan’s HDI ranking, where Balochistan has the lowest score (0.421), indicating a deteriorating status of human development. Moreover, according to the UNDP report of 2017, the district of Awaran has the lowest HDI position in the country, standing at 0.173. Additionally, other districts, such as Washuk, Harnai, Dera Bugti, and Kharan, have an HDI of less than 0.30 and are also at a very low level. These figures demonstrate the urgent need for a comprehensive and focused effort to address the challenges faced by the people of Balochistan and improve their overall well-being.
The HDI takes into account health, education, and standard of living when calculating the index score. However, Balochistan is the only province in Pakistan where these three conditions are showing an alarming situation. In terms of education, Balochistan is among the worst-performing regions in the country. The data on Mean and Expected Years of Schooling for individuals aged 25 in Balochistan paints a bleak picture of the educational infrastructure in the region, with MYS at 2.6 and EYS at 7.6, indicating a significant gap between the average schooling received and the schooling expected. Research figures reveal that only 28.66% of boys in Balochistan’s districts are educated, which means that 72% are not enrolled in any school. Moreover, an even higher percentage of girls, i.e., 83%, are not receiving the education they need. Shockingly, out of the 2.7 million children residing in Balochistan, 1.9 million are not receiving any education.
Health is an essential aspect of the Human Development Index (HDI), and Balochistan’s health situation is in a dire state. Unfortunately, 16 out of 32 districts in the region are categorized as either low or very low in terms of the health index, with only Kalat district being in the high category. Alarming figures reveal a decline in the health index of around 50% of the districts, including Quetta, Kharan, Jahl Magsi, and Zhob, in the past decade. Women and babies die annually due to medical issues that could have been easily treated, making Balochistan one of the worst places for health conditions globally.
There is a high rate of infant mortality in the province which can be attributed to several factors, including the absence of postnatal care for newborns within the first 48 hours, malnutrition, pneumonia, malaria, and neonatal sepsis. According to a report, Balochistan’s rate of postnatal care for newborns is considerably lower than in Punjab, at only 14.8% compared to 51.3%. Similarly, vaccination stats are significantly lower in Balochistan than in Punjab, with only 48.9%, 37.7%, and 23.2% of newborns receiving the BCG, DPT1, and Tetanus vaccinations, respectively. On the other hand, Punjab has a much higher vaccination coverage rate, with 91.6%, 87.2%, and 73.8% of newborns receiving the same vaccinations. Women have no facility to seek medical care because of the worst governance. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 298 deaths per 100,000 live births, which portrays a very bleak picture of maternal health facilities.
According to the 2017 UNDP report, Balochistan province has the highest deprivation in terms of the Living Standard Index. The report indicates that only 0.34 individuals are living in comparatively better conditions, with 17 districts categorized as the lowest and 10 in the low category. The only district that falls in the High Medium category is Quetta. This situation is attributed to a shortage of basic amenities such as proper sanitation, piped water, electricity, and poor livestock. One of the main reasons for Balochistan’s low living standard index is poverty. More than 60% of the population in Balochistan live below the poverty line, making it the poorest and most neglected province in the world, as stated in a recent report by the United Nations.
Balochistan’s low living standard index is the result of multiple factors including high unemployment, corruption, and illiteracy, leading to social issues such as theft and begging. The province, despite being the least populated, still has one-third of its population unemployed. Women’s discrimination and gender inequality in all aspects of life have contributed to lower living standards. Child marriages, rather than increasing girls’ access to education and economic opportunities, are common. Income stability plays a crucial role in stabilizing living standards and reducing the intensity of stress and anxiety caused by financial uncertainty. While money cannot buy happiness, it can alleviate the adverse effects of financial instability.
Prioritizing education and including vocational training in it will aid the socio-economic development of Balochistan. This can be done through increased funding and resources, improved curriculum, and better teacher training. Moreover, empowering women by providing access to education and better opportunities by creating safe spaces for women to develop their skills will allow the province to achieve sustainable development. Another important step is to improve the access to health care. For example, providing access to basic medical care as well as specialized medical care. To help increase the living standard, the government should focus on creating jobs, promoting entrepreneurship, and encouraging investment in the region. This can be done by providing access to capital and developing the infrastructure necessary for economic growth.
Manahil Bazai is working as an Intern at Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN), Quetta.