National coordination mechanism for epidemics control stressed

LAHORE: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has stressed the need for developing a national coordination mechanism for controlling  epidemic like dengue fever. Briefing media after the National Conference on Dengue Response’  chaired by the Prime Minister at State Guest House here Monday, Federal Mnsiter for Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq  Awan said that Prime Minister had also put in place a ‘Coordination and Strategy Cell’ at federal government level. The Cell would work for resource mobilization and harmonization  of all  the efforts from federal government, provincial health departments and international partners for this purpose.She said the Prime Minister told the conference that the existing and future grants from international organizations working for vector control and disease prevention, would also be put at provinces’ disposal through this platform.She said that since the anti-polio campaign is started throughout the country,  Gilani also directed the relevant quarters to ensure that the information and messages for prevention from dengue were disseminated through the huge workforce involved in polio eradication.Besides mobilization of civil society, trade bodies, bar associations, teachers and all other quarters, which matters, for creating awareness among the masses, the Prime Minister also emphasized the need for preparing a massive media mobilization plan for creating awareness among the general public about the fatal disease of dengue.

Federal Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that it was also agreed at the National Conference on Dengue Response that all the provinces, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan would evolve a joint, comprehensive and result-oriented strategy to save the people from dengue virus.She observed, “The incidence of terrorism has already confined the people to their houses, and now the dengue monster is frightening them, for which all segments of society must help the governments in pulling the people from this state of tension and trauma.”The Prime Minister, she said, also re-emphasized that the use of behaviour change communication strategies and public awareness programme was key to control spread of infectious diseases including dengue.

Quoting the Prime Minister, Dr Firdous said that under the current arrangement of the federal government with Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, $21.2 million is available for vector control, early diagnosis, prompt treatment and multiple prevention strategies. So far, she said, the Global Fund and UNICEF had provided two million bed-nets, while, USAID support worth $5.2 million was also available for vector control intervention and bed-nets. Another grant of $50.8 million would be available through Global Fund with focus on vector control and behaviour change strategies, she said, adding that World Health Organization (WHO) had been instrumental in providing requisite technical support throughout the process and was actively involved with Pakistani experts even now to develop strategies at all levels.

The Federal Minister, however, urged the international funding agencies including the Global Fund to ensure early release of funds enabling Pakistan to effectively fight against the monster of dengue fever.To a question, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that off hand,there was no short-term solution to eliminate completely the dengue virus but there were strategies to control this epidemic. Subsequently,she said, short-term measures were being put in order to control dengue spread and long-term strategies to eradicate this global viral disease.To another question, she said, all the provinces would hold conferences on dengue response at district level to ensure well-coordinated efforts and strategy to get rid of this fatal disease.

Responding to a journalist’s query, she said, “We should not resort to any blame game or political point scoring on the issue of dengue spread and let the people decide, who is responsible for spread of dengue virus.”The Minister told the media that Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa, Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Secretaries of all the four provinces, representatives from AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan, head of 12-member Sri Lankan health experts visiting Pakistan for dengue control, and foreign and local stakeholders also attended the conference. – APP