b) stabilizing the country's economy;
c) creating a government of inclusion, and
d) combating extremism and creating a culture of moderation.
Major health sector challenges confronted the Government when it assumed power in 2008. Health indicators were low; the maternal mortality ratio stood at 260 per 100,000; there was also a lack of regular immunization coverage; and the public health funding was below 1 percent of the GDP. Pakistan suffers from an unacceptably high infant and maternal mortality, a double burden of diseases, and inadequate facilities with pace of population growth. Slow progress in the indicators of maternal health, child health and their morbidity and mortality are major concerns in the progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Currently, one of the greatest challenges facing Pakistan in the health sector is polio. Eradication of polio is on top of the present government's agenda and has the full support of President Asif Ali Zardari.
In direct response to the lack of health management, the current Government has been making strong efforts to improve all health indicators. The Government's strategy is to shift from curative to preventive, urban to rural, and high-tech cost to basic health services. Additionally, more attention is being given to public health, especially women and children, and nutrition education. The Government of Pakistan is fully committed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) relating to the protection of mother and child health and reducing infant, child and maternal mortality. During 2010-11, the Federal Public Sector Development Program provided an amount of Rs.13.8 billion, whereas an amount of Rs.22.96 billion has been proposed in 2011-2012 for different preventative and curative programs in the health sector.
New Health Policy - One of the first steps the Government took to improve the health sector was to enforce a comprehensive health policy that focused on the concept of equity and equality. These include: emergency health care, particularly in reproductive health; upgrading essential curative services; prevention of major communicable diseases; mother and child health protection interventions; and women health care.
Polio Eradication Campaign - President Zardari revitalized the Polio Eradication Campaign, first launched by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in 1994 – beginning the drive by vaccinating her own daughter. The same child, Aseefa Benazir Bhutto, is carrying the mission of polio eradication forward as current Ambassador for Polio Eradication in Pakistan. Assisting the government's efforts to eliminate polio, President Zardari has worked to gain the support of local elders and Ulema in tribal areas where it is difficult to operate due to conflict. He has also strived to ensure the safety of mothers and children during vaccination days. Additionally, participation of all stakeholders including media, religious teachers and civil society organizations is also being encouraged for the success of the initiatives against polio. As a result of his efforts, Rotary International presented President Zardari with the Polio Eradication Champion Award in 2009. In January 2011, President Zardari formally launched Pakistan's National Emergency Action Plan 2011 for Polio Eradication with the aim to make Pakistan completely polio free. In January 2012, the Augmented National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication was launched that focuses on greater ownership, oversight and accountability at the Federal, provincial, district and Union Council levels, besides strategies to ensure access to eligible children in the areas where the law and order situation is sensitive.
National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care - This programme has recruited about 109,000 Lady Health Workers (LHWs) to date. More than 60% of the total population and 76% of target population has been covered by LHWs. During National Immunization Days (NIDs), about 16 million children out of 30 million are immunized by LHWs. Similarly, in high risk districts, 4.5 million out of 5 million target women are vaccinated by LHWs. Their role in improving mother and child health is well-recognised by now.
National Maternal & Child Health Program - The government launched this programme in order to improve Maternal and Neonatal Health services for all, particularly the poor and the disadvantaged, at all levels of the health care delivery system. It aims to provide improved access to high quality Mother and Child Health and Family Planning services, train 10,000 community Health and Nutrition Women Workers, comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (EMONC) services in 275 hospitals/health facilities, provide basic EMONC services in 550 health facilities, and family planning services in all health outlets.
Human Organ Transplant Authority - The Government established the authority to check illegal sale of human organs by implementing the law adopted to prevent malpractices in the sector. President Zardari became the first President to agree to donate all his body organs, after signing the landmark bill to regulate transplant of human organs in the country.
Disease prevention and control – Several initiatives have been introduced by the government in order to prevent and control the commonly prevalent diseases in Pakistan. The National Expanded Programme on Immunization provides immunization against 7 killer diseases i.e. childhood tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, neonatal tetanus, measles and hepatitis B. During the year 2010-11, 7 million children of 0-11 months and 6.5 million pregnant women were immunized against 7 deadly diseases and tetanus oxide respectively.19 million packets of Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) were also distributed. Under the preventive program, about 8.5 million children will be immunized and 25 million packets of ORS will be distributed during 2011-12. Additionally, the government is running several programmes for other diseases like Malaria, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, TB and Hepatitis.
Improving Health Education - The Government has also embarked on improving health education and specialization of doctors at higher institutions. The objective of this policy is to reach rural areas to enable the youth to learn medical and paramedical disciplines in their towns. The Government has planned the establishment of medical colleges in Khuzdar and Loralai, both in Balochistan, and Benazir Medical College in Gujranwala.
As a nation, we face challenges, some of them undeniably tough, like the threat of extremism, a troubled economy, a...