Rs 2.59b anti-hepatitis programme launched
* Aziz says clean drinking water to be provided to every Pakistani under Khushaal Pakistan Programme
By Shahzad Raza
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Monday launched a Rs 2.59 billion national programme for the prevention and control of all forms of hepatitis in Pakistan.
Since 15 million people – most of them extremely poor – suffer from hepatitis B and C in the country, the programme will only treat 5,000 of them free of cost on an annual basis. “It’s a historical programme,” the prime minister said while launching the programme at the National Institute of Health. He said that he had received a report that showed that unsafe drinking water was one of the major factors in spreading hepatitis.
He said that the anti-hepatitis programme aimed at providing safe blood, safe water, proper disposal of hospital waste and the vaccination of high-risk groups.
“We welcome donations, because it is a question of the future of our children,” he said, adding that he had made up his mind to launch such a programme after reading the horrifying analyses of the water research report.
He told the audience that water-borne diseases killed three million people every year. He said that the government would provide clean drinking water to every Pakistani under the Khushaal Pakistan Programme. The government was concentrating on both preventive and curative sides to help people live a healthy life, he said. “Our strategy in the health sector is focussed on prevention and disease control, ending malnutrition, providing maternal and child healthcare and ensuring the nationwide outreach of public health facilities.” He said that preventing HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and promoting mother and child healthcare and immunisation programmes were on top of the government’s agenda and that during the current financial year, the government had increased the health budget by 72 percent compared to the last fiscal year.
He said that a modern facility would be established at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and the federal government-run hospitals, including Shaikh Zaid Hospital in Lahore and the Jinnah Hospital in Karachi, would be upgraded.
Mr Aziz said that under upcoming legislation, reused syringes would be banned as poor hospital waste management resulted in often disposable syringes being resold in the market.
He announced that the government would encourage the surgical industry to import or produce self-destructive syringes for the safety of the patients. Nasir Khan, the heath minister, said that hepatitis was a serious health problem as there were more than two billion affected people worldwide. Under the programme, the mandatory use of disposable syringes and proper sterilisation of invasive devices would be introduced. “Quality control laboratories for drinking water quality are being established all over the country,” he said.
He said that an intensive programme towards capacity building at the federal and provincial levels would be initiated to strengthen the hepatitis treatment programme.