Saira Afzal elected vice chair of WHO Regional Committee for EMR

October 21, 2014

 Islamabad 21st October, 2014 - Minister of State for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar was elected unanimously on Monday as Vice Chair of the Regional Committee of World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Region. The region comprises 21 countries stretching from Pakistan in South Asia across the Middle East and till Mauritania in North Africa. In electing the Pakistan Minister as vice chair the forum recognized Pakistan’s leading role in policy making and setting public health agenda for the region. The forum also acknowledged the contribution made by Saira Afzal Tarar in confronting health challenges Pakistan and making significant contribution to the public health process at the regional and global level. 

61st Session of World Health Organization Regional Committee Meeting is being held in Tunis the capital of Tunisia. Minister of State for Health is leading the Pakistan’s delegation.

In her remarks while addressing the Regional Committee the Minister said that the Government of Pakistan appreciates the efforts made by WHO EMRO towards improving the health status of the member states. The Regional Director report is very comprehensive and speaks of the commitment of RD and his team towards the objectives of WHO. 

Minister said that the government of Pakistan would once again like to reiterate its full commitment towards the cause of polio eradication. However, Pakistan has sadly registered an increase in polio cases in 2014, but we need to see this in the broader geopolitical context. The situation in Pakistan is not due to deficiency in capacity or competence, but needs to be reviewed as a consequence of the counter terrorism campaign and the conflict in neighboring countries. We are suffering from a unique situation where we have strong resistance against polio campaigns and more than 60 health related workers have been killed during these polio campaigns. Despite all these obstacles, the government and people of Pakistan are committed to fight polio and a full-fledged Military operation has been launched recently in FATA area from where 80% of cases have been reported this year. We are already reaping the benefit of the above operation through planned immunization campaigns for the children of this area which were previously not accessible to such interventions. 

The Minister stated that Government of Pakistan appreciates the efforts of WHO for implementing IHR infrastructure in the region. Pakistan has already initiated various steps to ensure preparedness for dealing with Ebola Virus and will carry out all necessary precautions in this area. We are also cognizant of our MNCH targets, communicable diseases challenges and Non Communicable Disease burden in the country. The ministry of health with support of partners will take appropriate steps to tackle all these areas. The Prime Minister has recently approved a national health insurance scheme for poor and vulnerable which would be rolled out in phased manner to cover about 100 million population of the country. This is a step towards universal health coverage. Minister emphasized that the key to improving health status lies in strengthening the fragile health systems of vulnerable countries in the region and appreciate the efforts of WHO for providing better health to our populations.