Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani – File Photo

LAHORE: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced here on Monday formation of a ‘coordination and strategy cell’ to help control infectious diseases and vectors.

“Although health is not a federal subject after the passage of 18th Amendment, the centre will continue to extend its cooperation to the provinces in combating diseases and epidemics,” the prime minister said while addressing a national conference held at the State Guest House here on the outbreak of dengue fever.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, however, complained that his province was not getting full cooperation from the centre.

“After the 18th Amendment, the federal government did not fully cooperate (with the Punjab government),” he said.

Punjab Governor Latif Khosa, federal Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan, senior officials, health experts and visiting Sri Lankan doctors also attended the conference convened to give a message that the federal and provincial governments are together to fight dengue virus which has claimed over two dozen lives in Lahore alone.

Governor Khosa, who had earlier accused the Punjab government of having failed to take concrete measures to deal with the disease, changed his tone at the conference and praised the chief minister for his efforts to cope with the problem. “I appreciate the chief minister’s efforts. Now we have launched joint efforts to curb the virus,” he said.

The information minister, however, criticised Mr Sharif for keeping the all-important portfolio of health ministry with himself.

“The chief minister should now appoint a full-time health minister,” said Ms Awan whose briefing to the media mainly focussed on the prime minister’s speech in the conference.

Prime Minister Gilani said there was an urgent need to evolve a national coordination mechanism to curb diseases and epidemics. He said the coordination and strategy cell would be instrumental in resource mobilisation and harmonisation of all efforts by the federal government, provincial health departments and international partners.

“Relevant departments should strengthen the disease early warning system to meet the challenges posed by epidemics like dengue,” he said, adding that under an arrangement with the Global Fund for Aids, TB and malaria, a support of $21.2 million was available for vector control, early diagnosis, prompt treatment and multiple prevention strategies.

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