Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Friday hinted at promulgating laws to make immunisation mandatory for children in the province to prevent deaths and disability due to diseases preventable by vaccines.
Speaking at an international health conference in Karachi, he announced that the issue of three leading Karachi hospitals had almost been resolved as the federal government had agreed on handing over the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases and National Institute of Child Health on a long-term lease to the provincial government following approval from the federal cabinet.
“We are planning to promulgate laws to make immunisation mandatory for the children and issuance of various documents to the parents can be linked to the complete vaccination of their children. Sindh is without any polio case for the last two years while environmental samples have also been coming negative due to effective polio drives in the province. We need to have similar progress against all other vaccine-preventable diseases,” Shah asserted while speaking at the inaugural session of the 26th Biennial International Paediatric Conference organised by the Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA).
Newly elected president of PPA Prof Jamal Raza appreciated the CM for making extraordinary efforts for health in the province and urged him to take more measures for saving children’s lives, including action against ‘formula milk mafia’, which, according to him, was now minting hundreds of billions of rupees at a cost of making children sick.
On the occasion, the CM awarded the President of Pakistan Award for community service to PPA Secretary General Dr Khalid Shafi. Organising Committee Chairman Prof Khursheed Abbassi, Co-Chair Organising Committee Prof Jalal Akbar, Organising Committee Secretary Prof Habibullah Babar, Dr Shafi and Dr Waseem Jamalvi also spoke on the occasion.
Congratulating the PPA for organising a major international scientific event, which is held in Sindh after every 10 years, Shah said the paediatric association would hopefully come up with some solutions and actions for the current health situation after the devastating floods.
The CM was appreciative of the fact that the PPA had in the past supported all the health-related activities of his government, especially the child health initiatives, immunisation and nutrition programmes, and anti-polio campaigns. He maintained that the PPA had also played a supportive role in holding medical camps in various parts of the province during the recent flood disaster.
Pakistan had a child population of over 80 million and only 21 per cent of the children lived in urban areas, Shah said. “The rest of the children who live in the rural areas are usuallydeprived of various facilities such as clean water and food, education and health services.”
He said that last few years had been very challenging in terms of health due to financial constraints and other factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the unprecedented rains and floods.
The floods had inundated nearly a third of Pakistan, affecting nearly 33 million people, including 16 million children, rendered 7.6 million displaced, destroyed 3.6 million acres of crops and more than 750,000 livestock, and damaged 24,000 schools, he added.
The CM said 650,000 pregnancies were affected due to the floods with a death toll of over 1,500, including 552 children. He added that the estimated economic loss for the country was $30 billion.
“We have increased our health budget over the years and are making improvements with major investments in the health sector to improve various health indicators,” Shah said. He remarked that his government had been fighting a war against polio for many years. “We are faced with the challenges of malnutrition, low immunisation coverage and rampant infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea, dengue, malaria, tuberculosis and others,” he said.
He conceded that the infant mortality rate in Sindh was one of the highest in the world. Without healthy children, a nation could not have a healthy future, Shah said. “We have been addressing all these issues with effective polio campaigns, vaccination drives like those against typhoid and measles-rubella, and others,” he said, adding that the province had also established a separate institute, Sindh Institute of Child Health & Neonatology, with the vision to address the critical area of newborn care to reduce infant and neonatal mortality.
He told the event that the first such centre had started functioning in Korangi at the Sindh Government Hospital Korangi-5. He announced that he was planning to expand the network to Sukkur, Larkana, Kamber-Shahdadkot and Shikarpur, and eventually all over Sindh.
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