The Federal Minister for Health Aamer Mehmood Kiani has pledged to support the inclusion of all residents of Pakistan, including Afghan refugees, into the government’s health plans and programmes that will allow them to have access to better healthcare services.

On the invitation of Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR Representative in Pakistan, the health minister on Friday visited UNHCR. They discussed various issues pertaining to the well-being of Afghan refugees and their host Pakistani communities.

Kiani said that the provision of standard health facilities and reforms in public sector health institutions was the top most priority of the PTI-led government.

 “We are committed to providing better healthcare facilities to everyone – irrespective of their backgrounds,” he said.

During the meeting, various collaboration initiatives were discussed including; UNHCR support to upgrade equipment in health facilities, designing joint programmes to address health, nutrition, safe water and hygiene, etc for refugees and the host communities, and training of Afghan refugee men and women as paramedics at relevant training institutes in Islamabad.

The last initiative, he added will provide livelihood opportunities for the paramedics and allow refugee communities to benefit from their services. The minister further said that the initiatives will impact the lives of millions of Pakistani host community members and the Afghan refugees.

He informed that in 2019 the ministry plans to dedicate every month of the year to a different health issue that will help enact policies and raise awareness of the issue.

 “We will ensure that refugee health is reflected on the agenda of various thematic months,” he said.

Ruvendrini Menikdiwela said UNHCR has been providing health assistance to refugees and their Pakistani host communities for around four decades.

 “In the past five years, we have contributed USD 38 million to support healthcare for both refugees and refugee hosting communities,” she said.

Menikdiwela further said that UNHCR will continue to advocate for inclusion of refugees into health plans and programmes of the government of Pakistan, while concurrently supporting the millions of host community members.

 “We will invest resources in the government’s healthcare system to enhance quality and coverage of primary, secondary and tertiary care health services in districts hosting refugees,” she said.