ISLAMABAD: A special event was organised by Pakistan on Thursday during the ongoing World Health Assembly in Geneva in order to find a way forward for countries to take concrete measures in improving access to assistive technology. Pakistan was supported in hosting the event by China, Italy and Iraq, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of National Health Services.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that today, more than a billion people need one or more assistive products. With a global ageing population and a rise in non-communicable diseases, this number will rise to over two billion by 2050, with many older people needing two or more products as they age. However, only one in 10 people in need currently have access to devices.
Pakistani Ambassador and a permanent representative of the UN in Geneva, Farukh Amil presided over the event which was also attended by Director General Health Dr Assad Hafeez.
The event was attended by a large number of heads of country delegations, leading global institutions and INGOs.
Pakistan hosts meeting on assistive devices at World Health Assembly
Mr Amil said Pakistan being able to lobby for assent of the WHO Executive Board for tabling a resolution on the subject in the current assembly was a success.
“This is a victory for the one billion people across the globe living with various kinds of disabilities,” he said.
Dr Hafeez said the cause was championed at all global and regional forums by Federal Health Minister Saira Afzal Tarar and that Pakistan has been consistently pursuing it.
We need to ensure that countries commit to improving access to assistive products for those in need, he added.
WHOs first global champion for assistive technologies, Pakistani doctor Sana Hafeez also spoke at the event about her experience of meeting with an accident which left her physically disabled and how it inspired her to raise a voice for those who need assistive devices.
Sana Hafeez was a medical student when she suffered injuries to her spinal cord in an accident. However, she continued with her education and became a doctor.
Tajikistan Deputy Health Minister Dr. Aziz Abdosattar Odinazoda pledged full support for the cause.
Vice President of Chinese Disabilities Federation Jia Yong and Li Xi head of the China Assistive Devices and Technology Centre spoke on the occasion and shared the work undertaken by China in this important area. They pledged unflinching support of their organizations in developing industry to manufacture assistive products for persons with disabilities in countries part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
WHO Deputy Director-General Dr. Soumya Swaminathan reiterated the commitment of WHO Headquarters for supporting member states in developing the strategic roadmap for improving access to assistive technology.
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2018
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