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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations in a bid to avert bureaucratic hurdles in the construction of Pharma Park aiming at increasing Pakistan’s pharma industry’s exports to $ 5 billion dollars within the next five years has handed over all such initiatives to the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC).

In a special media briefing, the caretaker Federal Minister for National Health Services, Dr Nadeem Jan stated this while adding that the Government of Pakistan is committed to promoting and uplifting the health sector across the board focusing on providing easy and uninterrupted health facilities to the people.

While expressing serious concerns over relevant quarters’ failure to eradicate polio from the country despite 30 years of the launch of the polio eradication programme, he said that the government is collaborating with global partners and is committed to eradicating polio and other such diseases.

The minister while stressing the need for integration of the polio programme said that at present, the government agencies were just facilitating the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme and the agency over the years has made all-out efforts to eradicate polio but still cases are emerging.

He said that the government of Pakistan is also undertaking a programme to produce various vaccines locally including polio and Covid-19 vaccination.

Responding to a question regarding poor treatment facilities at public hospitals, the minister said that the government in collaboration with provincial governments has finalised a programme of health insurance, under which at least 30 percent of the national population will be fully covered and the rest of the population will contribute some of the expenses.

The minister said that Pakistan is all set to host the first-ever Global Health Security Summit (GHSA) which is going to be held in January 2024 aiming to strengthen disease response and surveillance systems in developing nations.

In order to be a part of this global effort towards a safer world, the Government of Pakistan, Ministry of National Health Services and Regulation, is to hold the two days Global Health Security Summit 2024, from 10 and 11 January 2024, in Islamabad, and invite leaders from around the world, international organisations, civil society and country participants who can participate, engage with each other and agree to solutions for making the world safer and future generations healthier.

While talking about the key strategic objectives of the summit, the minister said that it includes: (i) To collaborate with global leaders in order to ensure equity-based pandemic preparedness financing for LMIC; (ii) Mutual exchange of knowledge and rich experience with member states and experts around summit thematic areas which focuses on vaccine equity, patent deregulation and transfer of technology; (iii) Secure global; regional partnership with international organizations for aligning its health security priorities with those of global and regional priorities, in order to strengthening its core capacities through technical assistance;(iv) Explore opportunities of joint working and pool funding for health security/IHR 2005, across the region and globe (pandemic fund - “One Health”) in addition to the sustainable domestic funding for its five-year health security plan 2024-28. At the end of two days’ deliberations, future global health security charter will be signed in order to build up a narrative for equity based pandemic treaty based on equity based global financing facility on the mutually agreed upon “Islamabad declaration” for making health systems resilient enough to show case health security by putting up a coordinated “One Health response” to any threat and becoming advocates and champions of GHSA in participating member states.

He informed that the summit will include various health experts and donors and develop a strategy to fight the disease before it spreads.

The minister said that under GHSA 2024’s target, the member states including Pakistan the current chair of GHSA have to take greater ownership of global health security efforts and need to strengthen health-security-related 19 technical areas, within five years, by developing costed national action plan for health security 2024-28, based on the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) exercise, under International Health Regulations 2005 M&E framework, and reach the level of “demonstrated capacity” in at least five technical areas.

In compliance, Pakistan recently completed its second round of JEE in May 2023 and has received draft JEE Report 2023, highlighting six priority areas for the country to follow, which are; (i) Development of five years costed national action plan for health security; (ii) Increase domestic financing for health security; (iii) Institutionalise Health Emergency Management; (iv) Foster One Health approach for the prevention, detection and response to One Health threats; (v) Invest in sustainable multidisciplinary health workforce for health security; and (vi) To continue strengthening of surveillance and diagnostic capacities at all levels.

Globe has witnessed frequent disease outbreaks, leading to declaration of public health emergency of international concern (Polio; in the recent past, Ebola, Swine flu, Zika, SARC, MERS etc) and pandemic (Covid-19) leading to high morbidity; mortality, with a significant impact on livelihood and Global/National economies; security. Cross-border transmission is a/can be a threat to others in view of increased frequency of emergence/ re-emergence of infectious diseases with increased pace of spread.

Pakistan being one of two countries where wild polio virus is still circulating, sustained efforts are required to contain it within its borders and put in all-out efforts to eradicate it. In addition, there is a threat of deliberate use of biological and chemical agents; and laboratory and industrial accidents.

Global health security is crucial for a variety of reasons, saying that it not only increases capacity but also successfully avoids, detects, and responds to pandemics, he said and added although Pakistan has a wealth of knowledge in the healthcare field, it still needs to deal with a variety of illnesses such as TB, polio, diabetes, and hepatitis.

There is a great deal that Pakistan can contribute to the knowledge and experience of the global community in the fight against pandemics, he added. Pakistan has most recently faced the ravages of unprecedented floods and the resultant spread of disease.

The recent pandemic has shown that the spread of infectious diseases in any part of the world is a threat to the entire global community. Therefore, it is a shared responsibility, the meeting was told.

The meeting agreed on the thematic areas to be discussed in the summit which will include several panel discussions. A number of committees were constituted by the secretary health to ensure the holding of the mega event in a befitting manner. The international moot will culminate in the issuance of an “Islamabad Declaration” that would reflect the global commitment to fighting the spread of disease in unison and ensuring an optimal level of preparation through a stronger and resilient health infrastructure, the minister maintained.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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