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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services and Regulations, Thursday, while expressing serious concerns over the growing trend of anaemia and stunting in children under 10 years of age in the country has stressed the need to take necessary steps to improve the nutrition of children to control anaemia and stunting.

The committee which met here under the chairmanship of Senator Dr Muhammad Humayun Mohmand also summoned the senior officials of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in the next meeting of the committee to give a viable briefing with an effective plan to the panel for launching an effective awareness campaign.

Senator Seemee Ezdi raised the issue of stunting and anaemia in children in the committee, on which the director-general (GD) Planning Development Ministry of Health said that according to the data of 2018, the stunting rate is 14.2 percent which is very high and at emergency threshold. He added that around 12 million children are deficient in micronutrients while 60 percent are vitamin D deficient.

The DG of the Ministry of Health informed the committee that the issue of stunting in Balochistan, interior Sindh, KPK’s tribal area, and South Punjab is very serious.

The chairman committee questioned the Health Ministry officials what action they have taken in this regard since 2018 and what are the plans implemented? Responding to the questions, the DG Ministry of Health said that they made a plan and consulted the Planning Commission but the commission did not approve it.

The committee members including the chairman expressed their anger and concern over the state of affairs. Senator Mehrtaj Roghani said the failure is attributed to the non-harmony and stability in the programs, adding that every new government was abandoning the programs of the outgoing government.

Senator Jam Mehtab said the funding process could take a long time to complete to address nutrition and related issues, anaemia and stunting It is imperative to start an awareness campaign as soon as possible to get it. An awareness campaign on birth spacing, breast feeding, premature birth should be started.

The chairman committee said that the campaign should be carried out in the same manner as the instructions were given on the ringtones for awareness in the code. Senior Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health said that the PEMRA and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have to work together for conducting a media awareness campaign. The Chairman Committee while summoning the PEMRA and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in the next meeting said that the health-related matters should be highlighted during cooking and Morning Shows.

While discussing the matter of The Prime University of Nursing, Sciences and Technology Islamabad Bill, 2021 presented by Senator Naseebullah Baazi, the committee officials said that as long as Higher Education Commission (HEC) was not issuing No Objection Certificate (NOC) it cannot be operational as a university.

Officials said that according to the WHO, Pakistan needs one million nurses and according to the data available with Pakistan, there are only 180,000 nurses. The university does not exist. If it becomes a university, then Pakistan will be the first country to have a nursing university. The EC will visit the college and present the report to the committee.

The panel while discussing the modalities for procurement of MRI machine in Islamabad-based government-run hospitals was informed by the officials that a MRI machine costing Rs500 million to Rs600 million is required in all the government-run hospitals in the federal capital. The chairman of the committee directed the officials of the Ministry of Health to consider the model of the machine if they can get the machine at lower rates from China instead of Japan.

The committee directed the officials of the Ministry of Health to procure reasonably priced machines at the earliest. He said that MRI machines can be bought from China instead of expensive Japanese companies.

Present to the committee, the number of hospitals and BHUs in rural areas of Islamabad and the details of staff presented to the committee. There should be three rural health centres, four community health centres, 12 BHUs, and a dispensary operational in the rural areas of Islamabad at present, said the Ministry of Health officials. King Suleiman Hospital will be amalgamated while community health centres in Tarnol are still under construction. Officials added that there are currently 165 posts in all these health centres while 821 more posts are required.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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