Health crisis as immunisation comes to a halt in Gilgit Baltistan

GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government is under fire for its perceived apathy towards looming health threats in the region, leading to a critical halt in the immunisation programme in the vulnerable Diamer district.

This suspension not only jeopardises the health and well-being of the local population but also raises questions about Pakistan’s commitments to international organisations.

The dire situation unfolded due to the non-payment of salaries to 57 trained employees in Diamer district, including 48 vaccinators and nine data managers, for the past two years. As a result, these essential workers have refrained from carrying out their duties, exacerbating the health risks faced by the community.

The G-B Health Department’s attempt to regularise these crucial staff members under the “Strengthening of Routine Immunisation under EPI Gilgit-Baltistan” project faced obstacles during the previous government of PTI, casting doubt on the continuity of essential healthcare services in the region.

Despite initial support for the project’s elevation to regular status, the notification was abruptly withdrawn a week after issuance based on recommendations from the then Chief Minister, Khalid Khurshid.

Khurshid emphasised the need for a comprehensive re-evaluation, leading to the contested status of 48 vaccinators who sought legal recourse.

The Chief Court of G-B ruled in favour of the aggrieved staff, acknowledging the unique circumstances of the Diamer district and directing the department to regularise the services of the remaining vaccinators and data managers. The decision revealed allegations of personal grudges influencing the re-evaluation process.

Official documents underscored a fair induction process in 2019, which did not impose any conditions for a diploma. The trained staff underwent extensive training sessions conducted by WHO and UNICEF, contributing significantly to the success of the Health Department’s immunisation targets.

Despite repeated attempts, the Secretary of Health G-B, Dildar Malik, remained unreachable.

The current Chief Minister, Haji Gulbar Khan, who assumed office after Khurshid’s disqualification due to a fake degree, has struggled to address this critical issue, potentially placing his government at risk, especially in the event of a regional health emergency.

Amidst this crisis, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF closely monitor the situation, expressing concern and dissatisfaction with bureaucratic hurdles presented by the government. The international organisations emphasise the urgency of resolving these issues to ensure the continuity of essential health services and protect the well-being of the local population.


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