PM TRACKER
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SAARC STATES URGED TO STREAMLINE HEALTH SECTOR

 

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By AMANULLAH BASHAR
July 25 - 31, 2005
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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz inaugurated the second SAARC Health Ministers Conference in Islamabad that was certainly the event of the week, which suggested some concrete remedial measures to address the health issues confronting the people of South Asia region.

In his key note address, the prime minister stressed the need to foster greater collaboration among the SAARC member countries for providing better health care to the people of South Asia region and moving towards the accomplishment of millennium development goals.

"SAARC Conference needs to work collectively to improve the quality of life of our people. Health care is one of the critical areas for any government to take on; it is only a healthy nation, which can face challenges. We have to change the image of South Asia and re-position it as the future economic powerhouse, free from conflicts, hunger, poverty, disease, etc."

The PM said some SAARC countries have made commendable progress in some of the health-related millennium goals and they can share their experience to benefit other member countries to improve health services for the benefit of the people.

SAARC has great potential and opportunities to grow for the betterment of this region but at the same time it has many challenges to face to move forward along the path of progress and prosperity.

The member states should gear up their efforts in all fields, particularly in health and education. He emphasized the need to shift the focus from curative to preventive health care and disease control with special attention of combating hepatitis, malaria, TB, AIDS and polio from the region.

Prime Minister Aziz referred to Pakistan's efforts towards developing health sector and extending the latest health facilities to its people, saying the government has launched two major programs to control hepatitis, besides providing clean drinking water to the whole population by 2007.

Shaukat Aziz floated an eleven point agenda for SAARC Health Ministers to share best practices, encourage scientific research and create a health system capable of responding to all emergencies. "South Asians are resilient, enterprising, intelligent and industrious people; yet, many are still grappling with hunger, unemployment, high disease burden and poverty." He said the SAARC Health Ministers should focus on concrete actions to institutionalize the mechanism, by which best practices can be shared, creating mutual dependencies and linkages.

PM called for looking at ways to use technology to improve quality of life and living conditions while keeping the costs down. He called for bridging the knowledge gap by encouraging scientific research and development by utilizing new technologies including tele-medicine to reduce health delivery costs. Prime Minister Aziz also called for conceiving a health system encompassing health care, public health, community-based and population-based interventions. It was vital to provide leadership in the development of a national strategy for an integrated health information network, especially in the area of communicable diseases, including health surveillance, population health information dissemination, and health information management.

PM also proposed an institutional infrastructure for effective coordination amongst various stakeholders within countries responsible to implement the health system. In this regard, he said, more knowledge could be shared through the better available communication system . Citing the example of Pakistan, he said there was a need to promote private-public partnership by devising mechanism for growth generating collaboration between civil society, the private sector and government. PM Aziz also stressed the need to focus on building managerial skills of the staff associated with the health system at all levels. He called upon the donors to work more closely with each other to remove constraints in achieving the MDGs. He urged the member states to help each other in order to help themselves. He said it was a pre-requisite for sustained and holistic economic growth and social development.

 

 

He also called for developing harmonious societies by redressing inequalities and sub-regions, adding, South Asia is home to one-fifth of the worlds population. He said Pakistan enjoyed a unique pivotal position on the Asian continent as it straddled strategic trade routes between the East and the West. "We are fully committed to effectively contributing to defining of an international order, which would guarantee peace, security, economic development and social justice. Pakistan earnestly seeks amicable and peaceful relations with all counties of the region and is committed to the peaceful settlement of all outstanding issues." He said faster economic growth must take place in an environment of social harmony and an atmosphere of social cohesion. High maternal and neonatal mortality were attributed to high fertility rates, low skilled birth attendance rate, low levels of female literacy, poverty, malnutrition among women of reproductive age and inadequate and unreliable access to obstetric, child care and family planning services.

He said further progress in health would largely depend on literacy, access to safe drinking water and sanitation. While the internal challenges include raising government public health expenditures on health services, strengthening or policy formulation and management, improving quality of care by health care providers, strengthening monitoring and evaluation system, and an effective regulatory framework for the health sector.

The PM said Pakistan's strategy in the health sector was focused on prevention and disease control, ending malnutrition, providing maternal and child health care, prevention of hepatitis and ensuring nation-wide outreach of public health facilities, better sanitation and clean potable water.

The thrust of public expenditures was geared towards primary and secondary tiers and aimed at promoting gender equity through targeted interventions like increase of Lady Health Workers and improvement in maternal health care, he added.

TRAIN TRAGEDY

PM Aziz also distributed compensation cheques amongst the relatives of those who lost their lives in the tragic multi-train accident near Gothki on July 13. Speaking on the occasion the Prime Minister said that money is no substitute for the precious lives that were lost. "It was a very sad incident and I was shocked to see the horrific crash in news," he observed. Only those who have lost a loved one can understand the sheer grief and a sense of loss, he said and asked the people to bear it with magnanimity. He said that he has asked the minister concerned to bring to task those responsible for the tragic accident. The PM also offered Fateha for the victims and prayed to Allah Almighty to rest the departed souls in eternal peace.

VISIT TO US

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who was supposed to visit the United States and Canada later this month, has postponed the visit that will be rescheduled in a due course of time.

According to Foreign Office, the visit of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to the United States and Canada towards the end of this month has been postponed for the present. "Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is looking forward to his meetings with US President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and has expressed his deep appreciation to the two leaders for their understanding for our request to reschedule the visit for a later date. Mutually convenient dates will be worked out through diplomatic channels." The FO statement said Pakistan attaches importance to its multi-faceted and cooperative relations with the United States and Canada. "We are engaged in the process of further deepening and expanding our special relationship with the two countries."

CRACKDOWN ON MILITANTS

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, presiding over the cabinet meeting last week, observed that the institutions and elements found involved in fanning hatred, sectarianism and militancy would not be tolerated and brought to justice.

The federal cabinet in its meeting last week reiterated the government's resolve to continue crackdown on extremists until they are eliminated from society.

Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao informed the cabinet about the current law and order situation and the government's measures to arrest extremists after the London bomb blasts.

The federal cabinet, with Prime Minister in chair, also approved amendments in labour laws to achieve social compliance with standardized global system in order to boost exports.

The cabinet observed that amendments in labour laws would improve investment climate, besides helping increase exports and create job opportunities. The laws will ensure full security to women employees during their office hours.

The cabinet approved the national sports policy and implementation strategy. It directed the Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs to prepare sportsmen for the next Beijing Olympics 2008, by providing excellent coaching and training facilities, so that they should compete successfully in the games.

The cabinet also approved simplification of the procedure regarding security arrangements for authorities. The provincial and federal agencies were directed to work out security arrangements keeping in view convenience of the people.

The cabinet also approved MoUs on avoidance of double taxation with New Zealand, Sudan and Luxembourg. The cabinet ratified inter-government agreement on Asian Highways network aiming at a coordinated plan for the development of highway routes of international importance.

The cabinet approved establishment of Pak-Iran Joint Investment Company, which will give a boost to existing bilateral economic cooperation between the two brotherly countries and will also attract foreign direct investment from other friendly countries.

The Trade Policy 2005-06 and fixing of export and import targets were also approved. The cabinet considered the establishment of National Training Education and Vocational Training Authority that will formulate policies on skill development in the country. The cabinet was informed that there was heavy demand of jobs from abroad in the category of skilled labour in different areas like plumbing, air conditioning, electronics and carpentry.

The Prime Minister informed the cabinet that US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice telephoned him and they discussed situation in the region and Afghanistan, India-Pakistan relations and matters of mutual interests.

In his address to the cabinet, Prime Minister said the government is not against the Maderssas for they are imparting education to students and doing a good job. He, however, added that the institutions and elements involved in fanning hatred, sectarianism and militancy could not be tolerated and would be brought to justice.