islamabad - Over 45 percent Pakistani children suffer from malnutrition, which is also being carried to the next generations with severe negative impacts along with issues of population growth and other health problems, said the minister on Friday.

Federal minister for National Health Services (NHS) while speaking at an event held here regarding the world health day said that healthcare remains the top priority agenda in the social sector and the National Health Vision 2016-25 is a testament to that.

The Minister said that 3 million poor families living in 41 focused districts across Pakistan are currently accessing indoor health care services from 135 empanelled hospitals. The program is being expanded to eventually cover all districts of the country.

She further said that tuberculosis is undoubtedly one of Pakistan’s biggest health crisis. It kills almost 44000 Pakistanis every year and causes considerable economic losses. Pakistan commits to end the TB epidemic by 2030 and MNHSRC has developed an action plan for the next 3 years with a total cost of 500 million USD of which only half of the funding has been committed as yet. It was suggested to declare TB as a “Priority” disease and should be discussed at the highest forum of CCI in order to sensitize the governments of its critical nature and resource mobilization.

She said that the cumulative effect of lost manpower hours, healthcare expenses and lower productivity due to malnutrition in monetary terms in Pakistan is US$7.6 billion or around 3% of GDP every year. Considering the crisis situation in Nutrition, the matter may be brought on the agenda of CCI to achieve a multi sect oral coordinated response.

She further said that Pakistan is now the sixth most populous country in the world. Decline in population growth rate has been slow; the current population growth rate of 2.4% per annum is one of the highest in the world while contraceptive prevalence of only 35% is much lower than other countries. Any increase in health budget actually is diluted by ever increasing number of individuals added in the pool of population annually. Though ministry has been taking appropriate measures to address the issues however in order to further prioritise this very critical area it is suggested to have a threadbare discussion in CCI to formulise robust policies and allocate resources.

Saira Afzal said a major challenge in Pakistan is the varying estimates of health indicators, which exist in the country. These are derived from the routine reporting while others pertain mainly to regular/episodic national and sub-national level surveys marked variances have been recorded across these different sources with some reflecting more than 75% coverage in one survey whereas another survey shows 20% coverage in the same region. These stark differences are commonly attributable to the varying methodologies of assessment and biases.

Saira Afzal Tarar said that the Ministry of National Health has started working with Bill Gates Foundation, WHO and International Health Matrix & Evaluation to improve the data quality over last few years and have developed a comprehensive dashboard but would require continuous improvements in times to come. It is proposed that the government should commit to have one “Pakistan National Health Survey” of an international standard at 2-3 year interval covering consensus indicators all across Pakistan through its own resources. The finance ministry is requested to pledge the required resources in the upcoming budget (The survey will cost approximately PKR 500 million).

The Minister said that the MNHSRC is of the view that resources for health in the federal and provincial budgetary allocations should be enhanced in subsequent budgets (Allocation reaching at least 3% of GDP in next 5 years as envisaged in Pakistan National Vision 2025 i.e. 0.5% of GDP annually) in order to have a meaningful impact on the health indicators and bringing these at a satisfactory level.