Politicians explain party agendas at roundtable

ISLAMABAD - In its manifesto Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has pledged to increase the allocation for healthcare to 5 percent of the GDP, over a 5 to 10 year period in a stepwise manner.
Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis of MQM Dr. Muhammad Farooq Sattar at a roundtable while sharing the party’s future policies for the health sector on Tuesday said that the social health insurance will be introduced for the poor to serve as a safety net, while streamlining the flow of funds for health and catastrophic health expenses at hospitals. Funds available under the Zakat for health will be included in this initiative.
The roundtable was organised by GAP. The pre-election dialogue with political parties ‘public health and political agendas’ was part of the overall initiative launched by John Snow Research and Training Institute (JSI) to provide a platform to its partners in international community and civil society organizations to engage major political in a pre-election dialogue to understand their priorities on issues of public health. Such dialogues have also been held with PPP, ANP and PTI. He said targeting population control within the health system would be among the agenda of the health plan as this is the most important issue that is not receiving the attention it deserves.
Targeting primary healthcare, with a focus on environment concerns, especially water and sanitation, ensuring effective and efficient utilization of finances, harnessing the potential of the private sector, targeting human resource discrepancies would also be part of the health sector initiatives. 
Farooq Sattar said that the democracy that is functional right now is not real democracy rather it’s a feudocracy and pseudocracy and fruits of democracy cannot be trickle down without reforms.
USAID Health Officer Director, Katherine Crawford, said that the sector is highly politicized and there is no coordination between different departments and parties on health issues. And the recent outbreak of measles is one example of lack of coordination in the system. 
Heartfile President Dr. Sania Nishtar regretted that health indicators are matter of shame and great concern at the international level. She said 95 percent of the funds are pilfered and the system is not working at the grass root level. Things can be improved within days without much investment. Blood pressure screening, telecasting soap operas embedded with family planning messages and introduction of auto disposable syringes can make a difference, she suggested. 
Minister for IT in Sindh Raza Haroon was of the view that lack of coordination is there because elected local government system is not in place and the system can not work at the grass root level until the elected local bodies system in restored.
Chief of Party JSI Dr. Nabila Ali highlighted that the region has moved on but only Pakistan and Afghanistan have left behind. She shared that 75 percent of the mothers and newborns die during the first three days due to non-availability of basic healthcare facilities.  And 72 percent deaths occur in the hospitals even if the patients manage to reach any health center, which also fails to provide medical care to mothers and newborns.
Dysfunctional health system, lack of inter- sectoral collaboration, poverty, under nutrition, female education and empowerment, socio cultural and belief system and political interference are critical issues affecting health sector, highlighted Dr. Nabila.
Executive Director GAP and anchorperson at Waqt TV Dr. Moeed Pirzada moderated the discussion. Senior Health Advisor DFID Desmond Whyms, Ex Minister of State Overseas Pakistanis Dr. Nadeem Ehsan and Senator Nasreen Jalil also participated in the dialogue.  

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