ISLAMABAD                 -               The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in its annual report launched on Thursday said that the country is still spending less than one percent of its GDP on health services while the public sector is providing unsatisfactory quality and coverage of health services.

The report said that the country’s spending on health is still less than 1 percent of its GDP, whereas the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an allocation of about 6 percent.

It also said that the unsatisfactory quality and coverage of public health services means there is high dependence on the more costly private sector, putting adequate healthcare out of reach for thousands of households.

“As a result, many people are driven to consult unqualified medical practitioners, often with dire consequences,” said the report.

The report also noted that depression rates have risen, according to the Pakistan Association for Mental Health. There is no evidence that Pakistan has developed a coordinated national strategy to achieve the objectives of WHO comprehensive mental health action plan (2013–20).

It said “the control of communicable diseases remained cause for serious concern. Additionally, the incidence of non-communicable diseases — heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and various cancers — has risen”.

The report further commented that between April and June 2019, a total of 30,192 people in Larkana, Sindh, were screened for HIV, of which 876 were found positive; 82 percent were below the age of 15 years.

It also added that at 135, the number of confirmed polio cases continued to rise and the main reason is said to be the refusal of parents to have their children immunised.

The statement released by HRCP said that widespread social and economic marginalisation have left the weakest segments of society invisible and unheard.

The HRCP’s honorary spokesperson I. A. Rehman termed Pakistan’s human rights record in 2019 ‘greatly worrisome’, adding that the ongoing global pandemic ‘is likely to cast a long shadow on prospects for human rights.’

On the release of its flagship annual report, State of Human Rights in 2019, HRCP’s secretary-general Harris Khalique observed: ‘Last year will be remembered for systematic curbs on political dissent, the chokehold on press freedom, and the grievous neglect of economic and social rights.’

The reports explains child labourers are being sexually abused in mines in Balochistan, while news of young children being raped, murdered and dumped has become frighteningly common. Women continued to bear the brunt of society’s fixation with ‘honour’, with Punjab accounting for the highest proportion of ‘honour’ crimes.

Religious minorities remained unable to enjoy the freedom of religion or belief guaranteed to them under the constitution. For many communities, this has meant the desecration of their sites of worship, the forced conversion of young women, and constant discrimination in access to employment.