KARACHI – The Pakistan Medical Association in collaboration with the Women’s Action Forum, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Reproductive Health Network, Aurat Foundation, People’s Health Movement and Shirkat Gah organised a dialogue on “Health of People: Political Parties & Sindh Elections 2013” at a local hotel on Saturday.
The main purpose behind the dialogue was to bring all stakeholders and all political parties together for a discussion on health issues, including malnutrition, women, adolescent and child health , allocation of health budget, quality of healthcare service, gender discrimination and role of LHWs.
The main focus was on the role of political parties in the health sector.
Dr Hasina Chagani, representative of the Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA), while sharing her views, said that a higher mortality rate in Pakistan indicated that healthcare services being provided to the people were not up to the mark.
She said the level of malnutrition in children under five did not go down in the past 30 years. “The mortality rate could be reduced by following the UN’s millennium development goals (MDGs).”
The recent inflation in all food commodities had made the situation worse from bad. Due to malnutrition, 70 per cent of our children fall below the average weight for their age. “We can prevent all vaccine-related preventable diseases. Provision of clean drinking water is the most cost-effective intervention to decrease the morbidity and mortality due to water-borne diseases. There are things which need to be done to reduce child mortality: improving our vaccination coverage, decreasing malnutrition, education and awareness.
Hilda Saeed, representative of the Women’s Action Forum, while sharing her views, said that women health was very important. The status of maternal health is poor in Pakistan. An estimated 30,000 women die each year due to pregnancy-related causes. It is estimated that about 500 maternal deaths occur per 100,000 live births each year in Pakistan. All pregnant women are at the risk of obstetrical complications and most of these occur during labour and delivery that lead to maternal death. The government should increase budget allocation for health which currently stands at 0.7 per cent.
Hadi Bux Jatoi, in his address, said that treatment cost of a single disease was very high, rather out of reach of the common man. Twenty per cent of the people are suffering from hepatitis. Dr Zahid Ahmed said the government was spending 0.7 per cent of the GDP on health . We need to focus on primary healthcare issues.
Khawja Tariq Nazir said that the health system of Pakistan was very bad. The government was not giving primary healthcare service to the people.
Hussain Mehnti of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Amir Nawab Khan of the ANP, Taj Haider of the Pakistan People’s Party, Akbter Hussain of the Worker’s Party, Dr Arif Alvi of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Humanyun Bashir of the Awami National Party also shared their party manifesto as regards healthcare services.
They said that the subject of health had become an important one after the devolution through the 18th Amendment. They said that the country’s health budget should be brought at par with those of other countries.
Dr Samrina Hashmi of the Pakistan Medical Association said there was no mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the functioning of healthcare centres. “There is not an overall regulatory mechanism to ensure affordable quality care to those in need.” She said that there was a need to ensure food availability in order to reduce malnutrition.
“Women are dying due to pregnancy and this can be reduced by ensure free emergency obstetric care and ensuring effective, affordable transport for accessing health facilities.
 There is need to allocate appropriate budget for treatment and rehabilitation of disabled, increased budget of primary health care by 50 per cent of the current budget, allocate resources for development of a regularity mechanism, advocate for the reduction of violence in public sphere and support LHWs and Community midwives by integrating them in the health system.”