Annually some 150,000 new cancer cases occur in men and women of all ages in Pakistan, and 8% (around 12,000) of those afflicted die every year, Saira Afzal Tarar told the upper house of parliament on Wednesday.
Tarar — minister of state for national health services, regulations and coordination (NHSRC) — cited the World Health Organisation while sharing the statistics.
She told the Senate during the question hour that the government had constituted a committee on non-communicable diseases, which includes cancer. A survey has also been carried out across the country to ascertain the risk factors of these diseases.
The minister blamed tobacco use for most cases of non-communicable diseases in Pakistan. A control unit in the NHSRC is trying to reduce tobacco consumption through legislation and punishment enforced through police and other departments.
Most secondary-care public hospitals, all tertiary-care hospitals and 20 atomic energy commission centres are providing diagnostic and treatment facilities for cancer free of charge, she added.
Meanwhile, Tarar revealed that around 862 million doses of oral polio vaccine were administered to under-five children across the country through national and subnational supplementary immunisation activities between 2013 and 2015.
She said the programme aims at complete eradication of the crippling virus.
The Senate was informed that the government is considering a proposal for completing the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway. The sections under planning and construction involve the widening of the road from Karachi to Hyderabad covering a distance of 136km.
The 296km section from Hyderabad to Sukkur is under consideration. The 392km road from Sukkur to Multan is being completed at a cost of Rs294.352 billion and the 230km road from Multan to Lahore at a cost of Rs148.654 billion.
Moreover, the section from Sukkur to Multan will be constructed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor at a cost of Rs294.352 billion. The road from Multan to Lahore will be constructed through the Public Sector Development Programme.
The construction of the Sukkur-Multan section will start this month or the next and the work on the Multan-Lahore road will be expedited as it was supposed to be completed in January.
Hepatitis C virus
According to the national hepatitis survey, the prevalence of the hepatitis C virus is 6.7% in Punjab, followed by 5% in Sindh, 1.5% in Balochistan and 1.1% in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The house was told that the prevalence of the virus is increasing all over the country. The steps taken by the government to control the spread of the virus include registration of prescription drug Sovaldi, implementation of infection control campaign in four high hepatitis districts (Hangu, Swat, Upper Dir and Lower Dir), formulation of technical advisory group on prevention and control of viral hepatitis, development of national hepatitis strategy, and development of treatment guidelines.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2016.