Undoubtedly, women in Pakistan face multiple health challenges. The health issues range from the highest mortality rate among women to the burgeoning cases of breast cancer. The lack of attention authorities pay to improving the public healthcare system further exacerbates the issue because women often use the service owing to their reproductive duties. Furthermore, the issue of women’s health, particularly in rural areas, is often ignored because of cultural constraints. As per the UN report, 48 percent of women in Pakistan have no say in their own health matters.
Some of the serious health issues confronted by women in Pakistan are given as follows:
Maternal mortality refers to the death of women during childbirth or due to complications from pregnancy. Pakistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. According to the 2019 World Population Report, 178 women out of every 100,000 die while giving birth.
Several factors contribute to the highest maternal mortality rate in Pakistan, ranging from limited access to quality healthcare services to inadequate nutrition, high rates of poverty, poor education, and cultural barriers.
Many women in Pakistan give birth at home without proper medical supervision. As a result, the normal cases are, without a doubt, safely delivered by unskilled nurses. However, a pregnancy with some complications is often mismanaged and leads to the death of the mother. Besides, anemia (lack of iron in the blood) is a commonly seen condition in women during pregnancy, and it is mostly caused by inadequate nutrition in the diet. Unawareness of supplements or not consulting a proper doctor during pregnancy exacerbates the issue of anemia, which is the leading cause of maternal mortality in Pakistan. Furthermore, poverty and limited education also contribute to poor maternal health outcomes. Women belonging to an impoverished background are less likely to receive adequate maternal care and thus are more likely to develop complications during pregnancy. Moreover, rural culture prevents women from going outside of their homes, let alone seeking maternal health services during pregnancy or getting treatment in hospitals with male doctors. It is also the main cause of maternal mortality in Pakistan.
In Asia, Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer. It is the second-leading cause of death among women. According to the Pakistan Medical Association, around 83,000 cases of breast cancer are reported each year, and approximately 40,000 women die from it in Pakistan.
Several factors contribute to the high incidence of breast cancer in Pakistan, including lack of awareness, limited access to diagnostic facilities and cultural barriers. Many women are not aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and they only come to know when the case has already become complicated and gone out of hand. Besides, there are no separate breast cancer facilities in hospitals for women to get treatment. Since the topic is considered taboo in Pakistani culture and society, women hesitate to undergo its treatment. Thus, it is among the principal health issues facing women in Pakistan.
Iron deficiency is among the major health issues facing women in Pakistan. The problem becomes complicated during pregnancy. According to the global anemia survey, approximately 85% of women in South Asia are anemic during pregnancy, making it the leading cause of maternal mortality. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 50 percent of women in Pakistan are iron deficient. Besides, as per the findings of the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2017–2018, nearly 44% of women aged 15–49 in Pakistan are anemic. The principal causes of iron deficiency in women are their limited access to nutritious food owing to poverty and their unawareness about taking iron supplements during pregnancy.
HIV and Hepatitis:
HIV and hepatitis, being infectious diseases, are mainly seen among women from impoverished backgrounds who rely on public health facilities for childbirth. It is caused by contaminated medical equipment used during childbirth and other medical procedures. Owing to lack of facilities and un-trained staff at these healthcare services, the infected surgical equipment is not properly disinfected. As a result, these deadly diseases keep increasing. According to the National AIDS Control Program of Pakistan, an estimated 160,000 people are living with HIV in the country, with women accounting for nearly 37% of all cases. Hepatitis is more common in women. According to one lady doctor working at the Shaikh Zaid women’s hospital in Larkana, approximately half of the women who visit the hospital for childbirth are diagnosed with hepatitis. Many of them are unaware of it and neglect it due to the financial crisis.
Another health issue faced by women in Pakistan is depression. According to the Pakistan Association of Mental Health, about 34 percent of women in Pakistan are affected by depression. According to Huma Yusuf, a renewed columnist and scholar, women are more prone to depression as compared to men. One of the most significant risks associated with depression is suicide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and depression is a significant risk factor for suicide. In Pakistan the problem is depression in women is often associated with evil energy making it even worst. Unreligious methods are adopted to treat depression that further aggravate the problem.
Thus, there are five main health issues of women in Pakistan namely, maternal mortality, breast cancer, iron deficiency, hepatitis and depression. It is a right of women to receive adequate attention from the authorities to improve their status health in Pakistan.