FeaturedNationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 05

Human underdevelopment

The latest Human Development Index shows Pakistan’s ranking going down on the standard of living, health and education. Pakistan has been at the bottom of the rung not only in the world but also among the regional countries because health and education have not been its priorities, which improve the standard of living of people.

According to the UNDP report, Pakistan’s life expectancy at birth is 66.1 years and expected years of schooling are 8. The country’s gross per capita national income is $4,624. Switzerland leads the way on the latest HDI, while Norway and Iceland enjoy second and third positions. Among the nine South Asian countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, only Pakistan and Afghanistan (180th position) are in the low human development category. Bhutan (127), Bangladesh (129), India (132) and Nepal (143) are in the medium human development category. And crisis-riddled Sri Lanka has managed to improve its position by 9 points, reaching 73rd position on the index. Iran is three positions behind it at 76; the next is Maldives at 90th position. The report, titled “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World” has found out that around 90pc of countries have seen “reversals in human development” in the year of the survey, pointing to a world stuck in a never-ending cycle of crisis, causing global disruptions. According to the report, two major factors responsible for the disruptions were the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

The Human Development Index is a measure of countries’ standard of living, health and education. This is the first time in the last 30 years that human development in a majority of countries has gone in reverse for two consecutive years. However, Pakistan’s performance was dismal even before the onset of the pandemic and the war. Its healthcare system was seriously exposed when the pandemic hit it. It ranks 105th amongst 195 countries on the Economist’s Global Health Security Index, reflecting the country’s poor capacity for rapid response and mitigation of the spread of an epidemic, for treating the sick and protecting the health workers. All public and private hospitals put together had a total of 1,700 ventilators, and the government found it hard to even ensure the availability of safety kits for health workers or facemasks and hand sanitiser for citizens. Poorly-equipped government hospitals lacked the capacity to screen the large number of suspected cases. Our budgetary allocation for the health sector is about 2pc of GDP, far below 6pc recommended by the WHO.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) with an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 not attending school, representing 44pc of the total population in this age group. In the 5-9 age group, 5 million children are not enrolled in schools and after primary-school age, the number of OOSC doubles, with 11.4 million adolescents between the ages of 10-14 not receiving formal education.

Disparities based on gender, socio-economic status, and geography are significant; in Sindh, 52pc of the poorest children (58pc girls) are out of school, and in Balochistan, 78pc of girls are out of school. Nearly 10.7 million boys and 8.6 million girls are enrolled at the primary level and this drops to 3.6 million boys and 2.8 million girls at the lower secondary level. Gender-wise, boys outnumber girls at every stage of education. Gaps in service provision at all education levels are a major constraint to education access. Socio-cultural demand-side barriers combined with economic factors and supply-related issues (such as availability of school facilities), together hamper access and retention of certain marginalised groups, in particular adolescent girls. Putting in place a credible data system and monitoring measures to track retention and prevent drop-out of out-of-school children is still a challenge.

The latest figures are not available, but according to the Pakistan Education Statistics 2016-17, of the total educational institutions (149,852), only 51.5pc of the buildings were deemed satisfactory; whereas, 21pc don’t even have a boundary wall. In Balochistan, 51.64pc of school buildings required repair; 78.78pc didn’t have electricity; 70pc didn’t have latrines and 43.8pc of schools lacked clean drinking water. Over 1.9 million children out of 2.7 million were out of school and the retention rate from grade 1 to grade 5 was 41pc in the largest province of the country. A report states that each year 165,869 girls are enrolled in the primary section and the number drops to 44,076 in the middle section and further down to only 20,015 in the higher section. In Sindh, 36.5pc of the buildings don’t have latrines; 42.77pc don’t have drinking water; with more than 6.4 million children out of school.

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is still a challenge in Pakistan. The total economic cost of poor sanitation in the country is nearly Rs343.7 billion – 3.94pc of the country’s GDP, according to the World Bank. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), 27,000 children die each year from diarrhea-related diseases in Pakistan. Though health and education are provincial subjects after the passage of the 18th Amendment, yet the central government cannot absolve itself of the situation.

In Pakistan, dictators toppled civilian governments and ruled the country for about 30 years in the past. However, elected governments have also failed to make a difference as elected representatives proved to be inapt, corrupt, egotist and tried to concentrate all powers into their own hands. They failed to resolve national issues and provide basic facilities to the common people. The result is that the country is not making any progress and is moving in a cycle of problems, which are becoming complex with the passage of time.