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NEW DELHI: Pakistan has taken an aggressive posture against the scourge of polio and its growth had gone down in 2014, Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar said here on Wednesday.

“Pakistan is a firm believer in the effectiveness of the Saarc process and has always championed the cause of regional cooperation in finding solutions to issues that affect the entire region,” she told the fifth meeting of Saarc health ministers.

“Challenges like poverty and disease continue to afflict our people and remain an impediment to realisation of full potential of those that live in this region that stands out for being the third largest in terms of GDP,” Ms Tarar said.

Take a look: Bill Gates praises KP’s anti-polio campaign

India hosted the fifth meeting of the Saarc Health Ministers at New Delhi on Wednesday. The meeting was organised in pursuance of decisions taken by the Saarc Summit held in Kathmandu in November last year.

Referring to Pakistan’s region first policy, Ms Tarar reiterated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s vision of “Peace for development and development for peace”. 

She underscored significance of the meeting as leaders representing over a fifth of humanity were converged to deliberate on common challenges that confront people of the region, share experiences and chart a course for the future. She underlined need of cooperation among regional countries to fight poverty, disease and disability.

“She apprised the audience that Pakistan has reduced polio cases in 2014 due to aggressive polio eradication drive,” a statement by the Pakistan High Commission said.

“While enumerating Government’s reforms policies in health sector, she apprised that drug pricing policy was introduced in the country which provided for a transparent system of pricing where discretion was done away with.”

Our Reporter adds from Islamabad: Ms Tarar urged members of Saarc to make joint efforts to curb hepatitis which poses a major threat as 20 per cent of the patients affected by the disease worldwide belong to Saarc countries.

Speaking at the meeting, she said that 34 million of the 170m estimated patients of hepatitis B and C lived in Saarc countries.

“This is an alarming situation to say the least and requires a concerted nationwide effort to arrest the spread of the disease and provide accessible and affordable curative services to the people afflicted by both forms of hepatitis,” the minister said.

According to a draft of the speech available with Dawn, Ms Tarar said that in Pakistan the estimated mortality from hepatitis B and C was in the vicinity of 140,000 per year. Twenty per cent of those who develop chronic liver disease go into more advanced diseases like cancer.

According to estimates, nearly 4m people in Pakistan have been exposed to hepatitis B virus and about 8m to hepatitis C.

Ms Tarar underlined the need for cooperation among regional countries to fight poverty, disease and disability.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2015

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