ISLAMABAD - In a recent letter addressed to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, the World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concerns over the devolution of the Ministry of Health to the provinces, a WHO source told Pakistan Today on Saturday. “Dr Hussein A Gezairy, regional director of the WHO for the Eastern Mediterranean, wrote the letter and expressed concern over the devolution of the Ministry of Health to the provinces under the 18th Amendment, as it will cast severe impacts on the health sector because the provinces did not have the capacity to provide services to the people,” the source informed.
He said the WHO was concerned that the government should devolve the Health Ministry after building capacity of the provinces. “The concern of the WHO is that the provinces do not have enough resources, infrastructure and medical staff and if the provinces are given the responsibility of health sector in such circumstances, it will wreak havoc”, the source said.
He said the WHO also took up the matter in a meeting with the prime minister on June 1 when Dr Gezairy was visiting Pakistan.
He added that Dr Gezairy told the Prime Minister that provinces lacked the adequate system and uniformity of policies to regulate the health services, so there should be a mechanism in place to save the health sector from any adverse impact.
Asked would it be tantamount to interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan by the UN, the source said it was not interference but a humanitarian concern.
According to the source, Dr Gezairy also told the prime minister that polio vaccine being imported by the private sector was substandard and was contributing to the rising cases of polio across the country. He said Dr Gezairy had advised the government to purchase the vaccine through the WHO.
The sources said the WHO told the government that their devolution would also affect WHO’s campaigns across the country, as after the devolution, there would not be any uniform policy to govern the campaigns and it would be extremely difficult for the WHO to negotiate with provinces individually.
“In the absence of any centralised and paramount policy, the WHO will face difficulties in executing its campaigns being run in the country against various diseases,” the source added.
The devolution of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Labour and Manpower and Health to the provinces under the 18th Amendment has been a constant source of concern for various sections of the society.
The Standing Committee on Food and Agriculture had recently expressed similar concerns saying the issue of food security would be adversely affected after the devolution.