Report says infant mortality in Pakistan’s cities jumped 2.6 per cent last year and rates are expected to climb in the coming years despite country’s efforts to tackle the problem by providing low-cost services for a second population surge. Photo by Rawan Usmani/The Nation
The winter season may be drawing to a close, but the crisis in many cities in Pakistan is only at the beginning of its months-long fight.
According to a recent report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the rates of child mortality in Pakistan’s cities have climbed 7.6 percent since 2014.
The worrying statistics come weeks after Pakistan’s urban population grew 3.1 percent to more than 102 million in 2016, a new UN survey shows. Urban residents in Pakistan are expected to comprise up to 64 percent of the country’s total population by 2030, according to the World Bank.
That is a number that Pakistan already hasn’t been able to match.
“I think it is shocking and I think it is shocking to our politicians,” remarked Kamran Amir, head of the National Caste and State Reform Forum. “The idea that we have grown up being a subaltern people, this is not going to be the answer for us.”
In 2018, a new UNICEF report predicts that between 2025 and 2030, 80 percent of the fastest growing population in Pakistan will be urban.
Amir said policies ought to be changed to meet this changing population.
“The urban population is also a people that wants to move up economically, and in that direction many cities have ‘markets of opportunity’ which are just around the corner, but these sorts of outdated thinking and a lack of equality and a lack of equal opportunity is going to hurt us.”
He said he hopes that things like investment in infrastructure and government attention to providing resources for people will lead to positive changes.
“I think the political leaders of today need to understand and understand and understand that Pakistan is changing,” he said. “And unless they begin to do things differently, then for sure, we will continue to be living in the primitive era.”
The report comes as another nationwide report, the’unveiling of the status of women in Pakistan, showed women continue to face discrimination in institutions throughout Pakistan.
In the report, the lives of women in Pakistan are rated worse than those of 16 other countries in the development index. Pakistan was ranked eighth, while India ranked fifth.
Meher Afshan, the assistant editor of the report, says the disparity between how men and women are treated in urban and rural Pakistan will not change unless there is a complete societal overhaul.
“Just the [19th] Constitutional Amendment has made some changes, but these kind of things are being suggested now but are either being disregarded or are being passed along without following through with them,” Afshan said.
The new law prohibits violence against women, with punishments of up to life imprisonment.
Afshan blames economic disparities for the lack of progress, saying that the rise in women in urban Pakistan does not match the economic disparity of Pakistan.
“What we have seen is a phenomenal rise in women’s economic participation in cities, but also the labor force participation is increasingly shrinking in rural Pakistan.”
Afshan is calling for a shift in the way politics is conducted in order to change the situation, “which means economic and social policies that tackle women’s rights will need to be implemented more broadly and more robustly.”