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ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, Senator Dr Sania Nishtar Saturday highlighted Pakistan's response to Covid-19 health crisis during a day-long conference on "COVID-19 and South Asia".

The conference was arranged by School of Public Health and Centre for Contemporary South at Brown University.

Speaking at the "Lunch Time Plenary: Covid-19 in Pakistan" Dr Sania shared lessons from Pakistan.

Speakers from South Asia including those from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India joined virtually.

Other speakers joined from Brown University; Yale University; and Harvard University, and civil society organisations.

The "Lunch Time Plenary: COVID-19 in Pakistan" was followed a moderated conversation between Dr Sania, and speakers from Brown and Harvard.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Sania said, "Pakistan fared much better than other countries in the region, with respect to its response to Covid-19. Pakistan's success so far has been due to a number of factors, namely, high level political attention and support for needed action; a very careful balancing, health vis-a-vis livelihoods overseen and led by the Prime Minister himself, a whole of Government and whole of society mobilisation, and institutional approach to multi-sectoral coordination."

She further added, "the data driven decision making and accountability for actions led by the National Command and Operation Centre, the use of the entire might of the government for the response, the economic measure taken and the large package of assistance in the shape of Ehsaas Emergency Cash, contributed to the success. However, we are currently experiencing the fourth wave, so there is no space for complacency."

Recently, Pakistan has also been ranked the third best worldwide, in terms of its effective management of the pandemic.

Also, according to the World Bank, Ehsaas Emergency Cash was the third largest programme in terms of percentage of population covered, and fastest globally in terms of the speed of disbursement of cash to Covid-19 livelihood affectees.

The experience of Ehsaas in terms of the SMS based request seeking mechanism was vital to the construct of the Covid-19 vaccination mechanism. "The Ehsaas SMS identity is 8171 whereas the Covid-19 vaccination system modelled on it is 1166".

The conference focused on variations in country responses.

The pandemic affected all countries, but the outcomes varied significantly. Suffering in some countries was substantially greater, as was also true of the levels of suffering in different parts of a given country.

Speakers emphasised that government policies, the strength of public health systems, citizen mobilisation, vaccine availability and administration have all mattered in different ways. We need to begin to understand how these various factors, and potentially others, came together to generate the outcomes we have thus far observed.

Pakistan has used over 65.5 million doses of the vaccine; more than 21 million people are fully vaccinated, and the target is to vaccinate nearly 70 million people by the end of the year.

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