Measles outbreak: Pakistan may face international travel ban

Published: May 16, 2013
There have already been 25,401 reported cases of measles less than four months into this year. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

There have already been 25,401 reported cases of measles less than four months into this year. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


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.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Student
    May 16, 2013 - 9:34AM

    Means no forigen deligation to Pakistan? (vice versa) !


  • sm
    May 16, 2013 - 9:46AM

    This is shameful, utterly shameful.I rarely sympathize with what goes on in Pakistan, but this one,where children are dying and the above pic,well, i have no words.


  • Ricky
    May 16, 2013 - 10:02AM

    Not just terrorism but also biological weapons are coming out of Pakistan thanks to the Punjab govt since it had taken the health charge. The civilized would and should ban the travel of these moving carriers of epidemics. So what if we have all these diseases proliferating in Pakistan we have nuclear bombs to deal with these disease thanks TTP we cannot even vaccinate our children.


  • May 16, 2013 - 10:17AM

    “Pakistan Zindabad,” is all we care to say without any meaning. We love to take action on frivolous and unimportant issues and seemingly make it into a public demon.
    We have to squarely blame the PPP government for this humongous PROBLEM. Their total lack of effort for the national welfare and health systems, is the corollary to their apathetic attitude to good governance.
    Well done, Pakistan. Another black face with ALL the global citizens standing in front of us and laughing. Well done all the pillars of government and thank you ET for highlighting this monolithic human problem. Well, it certainly proves one thing. The TTP is certainly extracting its pound of flesh OR the government is short of funds. Salams


  • Kosher Niazi
    May 16, 2013 - 10:20AM

    Maybe that is why autism is so low in Pakistan.


  • WildCat
    May 16, 2013 - 10:21AM

    It’s shocking that we’re still not vaccinating our kids and i blame only and only and the trusted ‘elected’ politicians who give back nothing to their constituencies and are to be held solely responsible for the deaths of these kids who could have been easily saved. Sad, sad, sad state of affairs…. the world is moving forward and our dear beloved country is continuously pushed back in to the dark ages!


  • Raj - USA
    May 16, 2013 - 10:49AM

    One after another countries are asking Pakistani pilgrims not to travel to their counties. First it was India, then Iraq, and now Saudi Arabia.


  • The Khan-Waterloo,Ontario
    May 16, 2013 - 10:56AM

    There are too many expatriate Pakistanis and NRPs for this travel ban to be enforced


  • Mj
    May 16, 2013 - 11:56AM

    @Kosher Niazi:
    There is no link between autism and vaccination. Please don’t spread discredited pseudoscience.


  • truth
    May 16, 2013 - 12:00PM

    one more feather in the cap for Pak


    May 16, 2013 - 12:35PM

    they say ‘bacche sab ke sanjhe hote hain‘ It pains to see visuals of children sufferering!
    May God help us all!


  • Water Bottle
    May 16, 2013 - 12:44PM


    But this is clearly pakistan’s own fault. Instead of investing in unnecessary nuclear weapons against a country which never attacked you, you could invest money on healthcare and education.

    This is what Nawaz should do. He should put a leash on the army and curtail its sources of funds from the national budget.


  • Concerned
    May 16, 2013 - 12:48PM

    The conditions are clear reflection how positive we think on national and state levels. Politicians are busy in recovering and increasing their expenditure during elections while bureaucracy suggest for decentralization and centralization of health institutions.
    Let the institutions run and make some effort to eradicate those diseases which the world don’t even know.


  • Rothschild
    May 16, 2013 - 12:54PM

    Italian courts beg to differ. They even awarded compensation to MMR vaccine victims.


  • Hajj
    May 16, 2013 - 1:40PM

    My parents are planning to go on hajj this year, and my God its so difficult to go on Hajj from this country, seems after the 6 lac per head, then finding an honest and reasonable group to travel with, then passport office nightmare, I hope damn measles does not catch up after all this.


  • Shahamat Malik
    May 16, 2013 - 2:01PM

    Who cares about the health. Sindh EPI has already procured a Pentavalent childhood vaccine, that was stopped by Suindh High Court to be purchased by Federal EPI before local safety and effectiveness study report.


  • Fhgb sh
    May 16, 2013 - 2:55PM

    I believe Saudi Arabia will never stop Pakistan for hajj I can’t believe where and why people spread this rumors. Why


  • Mj
    May 16, 2013 - 3:14PM


    “Italian courts beg to differ. They even awarded compensation to MMR vaccine victims.”

    I feel sorry if you take medical advice from courts instead of scientists who publish in reputable journals. Italy is the same country which jailed a seismologist for failing to predict earthquake, which is something no one can do with the technology we have available to us.


  • Kamal
    May 16, 2013 - 3:14PM

    Total and absolute apathy and corruption. These two do not allow a single Institute to work at minimum Internationally accepted standards. Those about which we claim do are utter lies. What we report to IMF is totally incorrect. Elections don’t mean much unless certain minimum standards are adhered to strictly and Institutions are enabled to enforce these independentl in Health, Aviation, Food, Medicine, Finance, Higher Education.


  • gp65
    May 16, 2013 - 7:34PM

    Certainly heartbreaking. Sadly though India is not out of the woods on measles either. The good news is however the government is trying to build on the success of the anti-polio campaign to eliminate measles outbreaks also.

    When it comes to kids, pointscoring on national basis seems inappropriate.


  • May 16, 2013 - 8:16PM

    @Water Bottle: How can you blame the army for defense funds allocated to it and not the fraud and squandering exacted upon the country by the erstwhile government?
    The number of financial scandals, the luxuries, and the complete neglect of health and social sectors is what you should be looking at, to cast your blame. Have a nice day. Salams


  • Jun 2, 2013 - 2:45PM

    Spread of measles in punjab is due to negligence and corruption in purchase of defective vaccine by corrupt secretary health arif nadeem and gujrat based group of doctors who are director general health services punjab dr.tanveer ahmad (ex director epi) , director Lahore division dr. inamul haq (ex edo health Lahore), ex dg health dr aslam chaudhry to damage election compaign of pml-n.


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