ISLAMABAD: Iran has proposed that health centres be established on both sides of the border between Pakistan and Iran to stop transfer of diseases from one country to another.
Iran has also offered to provide vaccines for different diseases and train Pakistani health workers.
However, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has said that it needs to discuss the proposal with the Foreign Office and the government of Balochistan.
A delegation led by Dr Mohsin Asadi Lari, special assistant for international affairs to the Iranian health minister, met NHS Minister Saira Afzal Tarar and underlined the need for Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan to formulate a joint strategy to control polio, malaria and other diseases.
The Iranian delegation was also interested in exporting vaccines to Pakistan.
The delegation told Ms Tarar that President Hassan Rouhani had tasked his health ministry with producing all the important vaccines in Iran by the end of his term in office.
The delegation said Iran could provide the Oral Polio Vaccine and expressed the desire to work closely with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to rid the region of polio virus.
The members of the delegation discussed with Ms Tarar in considerable detail the Iranian offer for setting up health centres at border crossings between Pakistan and Iran.
An official of the NHS ministry pointed out that Iran, which fought a long war with Iraq and has had to face international sanctions for a long time, has made more progress than Pakistan in the area of healthcare.
Ministry of National Health Services says the proposal will be sent to the Foreign Office and government of Balochistan
Ms Tarar told Dawn that Pakistan and Iran were both members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation and other groups, and as such they could learn from the experiences of each other.
“Iran has not only eradicated polio but has also developed a much better healthcare system. The (Iranian) delegation is interested in vaccine manufacturing and also offered to support the Lady Health Workers programme,” she said.
The minister said the details of her meeting with the Iranian delegation would be sent to the Foreign Office.
“We have also established a committee headed by Health Director General Asad Hafeez to assess the areas in which we should collaborate with Iran,” she said.
According to an official statement, the Iranian delegation expressed a keen desire to forge a strong partnership in the areas of disease control and medical education. Iran also offered to train community health workers and epidemiologists.
The meeting agreed that a joint committee would be set up to meet periodically and alternately in both countries in order to discuss, negotiate and exchange ideas to move forward.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Hafeez said: “Health centres on both sides of the border can help stop transfer of polio virus, Congo haemorrhagic fever and other diseases.”
However, the NHS ministry was not authorised to take a final decision in this regard, he added.
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2015