Pakistan may face an international travel ban, including a possible ban on Hajj travel by Saudi Arabia, due to its failure to control a measles outbreak.
According to documents available with The Express Tribune, Minister for Information and Technology, Education and Trainings and Science and Technology Dr Sania Nishtar informed Caretaker Premier Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso and her cabinet colleagues that Pakistan was the only country in the world without a clear health structure.
During a cabinet meeting held on May 4, 2013, she pointed out that this was the second time a measles outbreak could not be prevented in Pakistan, and this, she warned, could lead to international isolation and a potential travel ban. “In fact, Saudi Arabia is likely to impose a Hajj ban,” she said.
According to a report last month, there have already been 25,401 reported cases of measles less than four months into this year. At least 146 children across the country have lost their lives due to the disease.
Documents obtained by The Express Tribune showed that out of 7,000-plus laboratory confirmed measles cases in 2012, a staggering 60% of children were not given even a single dose of the measles vaccine, while 20% were inoculated with only one dose.
World Health Organisation’s (WHO) focal person on the measles outbreak in Pakistan, Dr Qamarul Hasan, had said, “Pakistan is one of the top 5 countries in the world having the highest number of unvaccinated children. Of course, no sensible mind can say this is a satisfactory achievement.”
Nishtar briefed the cabinet over the objectives of presentations concerning restructuring and reorganisation of federal health institutions that were previously fragmented across various ministries and divisions.
The cabinet notified the focal person on health reforms in this regard.
Before the presentation started, the cabinet secretary informed members that Prime Minister Khoso had approved a summary regarding renaming the National Regulations and Services Division as the National Health Services, Regulations and coordination Division.
Following the renaming, it was proposed that necessary amendments in the Rules of Business 1973 and a study by the Establishment Division to ascertain the capacity of the division be carried out.
Cabinet members recommended that all medical colleges and institutions in Islamabad be given to the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CAD). They also highlighted the need for a central health system as well as a central body for international health regulatory conventions.
Institutions devolved to provinces should be considered for re-transferring control back to the federal government, the Cabinet members suggested.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2013.