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July 25, 2015

Ministry endorses findings of Planetary Health Commission report

Islamabad

 
July 25, 2015

Islamabad
The Ministry of Health was quick to endorse the recommendations of the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Report on Planetary Health, which was launched here on Friday.
“We welcome the findings of the report and will make every endeavour to change the course of policy accordingly. This is our commitment,” said secretary heath Ayub Sheikh at the report’s launch. Minister of State for Health Saira Afzal Tarar went a step further to nominate a focal point for planetary health, on the recommendation of Dr. Sania Nishtar, who is one of the 15 members of the high-powered international Commission on Planetary Health responsible for authoring the report.
Pakistan is usually present in the international media for reasons that do not do us proud. July 24th was an exception. As host to the launch of the report, Pakistan projected a soft and constructive international image, thanks to Dr. Sania Nishtar. Pakistan will definitely shine in international circles for its proactive stance in response to an international report.
Present at the launch was also the director general health, Dr. Asad Hafeez. Rarely do the top-three officials of the Ministry of Health attend the same event, but making an exception, the minister, secretary, and DG were all present at the launch in addition to several other high officials of the Ministry of Health. One could tell that it was Dr. Sania Nishtar’s credibility that drew them to the table.
“The environment sector is a priority for our government,” asserted Saira. “Even after devolution of most responsibilities to the provincial level, the federal government has retained the Ministry of Climate Change at the federal level, which goes to show how seriously we take this matter.” She reiterated the importance of inter-sectorial collaboration and explained about her recent efforts to forge partnerships with the Ministry of Climate Change in that regard.
Professor Antony Capone from the United

Nations University in Kuala Lumpur, one of the other commissioners also joined at the launch, and explained the concept of the Anthropocene era, outlining key findings of the report. He explained how unsustainable patterns of consumption were pushing the planet to its limits, therefore threatening prosperity gains of the last decades. Despite ongoing unofficial Eid holidays, the launch was extremely well-attended in addition by several ambassadors, heads of think tanks, and chief of UNDP Pakistan.
The event was more than a launch as it was also “structured to catalyze action,” explained Dr. Sania Nishtar. Rector National University of Science and Technology (NUST), General Asghar and his team were also present at the event and explained how their university could build further on the report’s recommendations in relation to stepping up interdisciplinary research, which was already underway in NUST.
Minister of State and Chairperson of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Marvi Memon stated that “there is a complete linkage between the report and the 5 million families that are served through the income support programme,” adding further that a meeting would be convened to look closely at the report’s recommendations.
A segment of the launch focused on Pakistan-specific issues where Dr. Muhammad Ashraf’s presentation on Pakistan’s water challenges was widely regarded as “an eye-opener.” His account of Pakistan’s impending water scarcity and the mismanagement which caused it generated much discussion and debate. On the other hand, secretary food security Seerat Asghar’s presentation on Pakistan’s food security challenges was more on the lines of outlining opportunities for the way forward in the agriculture sector.
Ali Tauqeer Sheikh also spoke at the event. “Rs365 billion is the cost of inattention to environmental concerns in Pakistan,” he stated and went on to explain the other costs of inattention to this major problem.
The launch ceremony also featured messages by Professor Sir Andy Haines, chair of the Commission, Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, and Helen Clarke, administrator of UNDP.
In her closing remarks, Dr. Sania Nishtar emphasised the close linkages between the health of people, nations and the planet, and reiterated that Pakistan should regard its environmental challenges, particularly the water crisis, as a matter of national security.