Karachi, Pakistan: The latest local research on major childhood infections came under discussion at a seminar held jointly between the Pakistan Paediatric Association’s Infectious Diseases Group and Aga Khan University’s Division of Women and Child Health.
Research clearly reveals that new-born infections and childhood illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhoea are responsible for three-quarters of all deaths among children under five.
Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, Founding Chair, Division of Women and Child Health, AKU, focused on the interplay between infections and malnutrition among children. It is clear that poverty is adversely affecting children in all provinces across Pakistan with malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency and diarrhoea responsible for often rendering vaccines ineffective among children.
Polio remains a scourge and Professor Anita Zaidi, Chair of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, AKU, revealed that Pakistan reported more cases in 2011 than any other country in the world despite implementation of the government’s National Emergency Action Plan against polio during the same year. The major reason is weak vaccination campaigns in many areas – the lack of sufficient vaccine doses to reach all children, as well as the security problems that affect access to children in FATA. Alarmingly however, nearly 24 per cent of all children recently diagnosed with polio had in fact received the vaccine seven or more times – a fact that clearly points towards malnutrition as a possible culprit for the reduced effectiveness of vaccines in such children.
Simple preventive strategies such as breast-feeding and improved hygiene practices, as well as the provision of sanitation facilities and clean drinking water for health promotion were emphasised during the discussions.
At the conclusion, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, Health Minister, Government of Sindh expressed a commitment to cooperate with academia in dealing with health related problems.
The event was attended by several UNICEF and WHO officials, community physicians, paediatricians, allied health professionals and members of civil society.
Rida Turabi, Senior Media Executive, Department of Public Affairs, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, on +92 21 3486 2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org