WHO meeting to cement ties between brotherly countries: Saira

ISLAMABAD: Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar Tuesday said the WHO Regional Committee meeting in Pakistan would bring great nations together and cement the ties between brotherly countries.

She said while addressing the Regional Committee Meeting of Eastern Mediterranean Region of World Health Organization (WHO).

The minister said the Eastern Mediterranean region had a population of nearly 583 million people. “We must correct the disparity in health spending of this region. We must invest in human capital and prioritize health when allocating resources.”

She said, “There is a wealth of global and local knowledge in the region. There is a challenge of access of public to health services. We must employ innovation to ensure equity in access to health services.”

Provision of healthcare, she said, was the foundation of the development of human society. The collective deliberation by the experts of the region on the important subject and related issues was highly gratifying, she added.

“I am confident our deliberations will be highly fruitful and play a significant role in improving healthcare as some of the problems of this region are of identical nature and we have to solve them collectively.”

She said that bonds of common faith, history, cultural and similar socio-economic conditions demanded a collective effort to address diverse issues in health and the conference could be a milestone in that regard.

The minister said the National Health Vision was fully aligned to health related SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

She said that Pakistan had taken major steps in the realm of universal health coverage and social protection by launching the landmark National Health Insurance initiative- The Prime Minister’s National Health Programme.

The Programme, she said, catered to the health needs of population living below the poverty line through provision of free of cost quality health services made available in both public and private sectors.

She said families all over the country were being issued health cards through a highly transparent system. “We are confident that the initiative in terms of its model and scale serves as an example that can be replicated in other countries of the region.”

She said that Pakistan was fully cognizant of the global health implications of Anti-Microbial Resistance. Under a comprehensive National AMR Containment Policy emphasis had been laid on the five strategic objectives of the WHO Global Action Plan for AMR.

“We are working to optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines in human health sector, agriculture and animal health sector though implementation of a multi-pronged strategy in line with our national AMR policy.”

She said that Pakistan was fighting the final battle against polio after achieving a major turnaround and winning appreciation of the international community.

With the patronage of the President and leadership of Prime Minister “we will achieve the final victory against polio,” she added.

The minister said special attention had been paid to strengthening immunization

of mother and child under the Expanded Programme on Immunization. There had been an increase in coverage of children vaccinated under Expanded Programme on Immunization by 15-20 per cent.

She said Vaccine Logistics Management Information System (VLMIS) had been introduced. The entire supply and storage system had been certified by ISO as being in accordance with international best practices.

Pakistan, she said, had introduced ROTA virus vaccine with the support of GAVI in a phased manner. To ensure equitable access to immunization, special emphasis would be given to reaching the under-served population through robust micro-planning and tailor made strategies such as engagement of civil society organizations and community workers for demand creation in low Immunization coverage and hard to reach areas.

She said major reforms were being made to make affordable and quality drugs available to the masses. For the first time in Pakistan, a comprehensive and futuristic Drug Pricing Policy had been introduced eliminating all discretionary powers and also allowing for reduction in drugs prices.

To fight the menace of substandard and spurious drugs, she said, availability of generic drugs was being encouraged to provide an affordable alternative to the low income groups.

Saira said that Pakistan was fully committed to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) with specific reference to SDGs. “In this connection, we are taking legislative, administrative and coordination measures to implement FCTC provisions.”