WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan will discuss setting up a Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Pakistan when they hold their first-ever health dialogue in Washington on Monday.

A four-member Pakistani delegation, led by federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel, reached Washington on Saturday for the talks. Earlier this week, Pakistan also sought US support for its efforts to stabilise the economy.

Last week, Director of the Pakistan Desk at the US State Department Neil W. Hop said at a gathering of Pakistani physicians that the July 25 dialogue would be the largest-ever health talks between the two countries.

Although the Pakistani delegation has only four members, a large number of Pakistani health officials and experts will participate in the talks virtually. Ambassador Masood Khan and other officials of the Pakistan Embassy will also join the delegation.

Experts from the US Center of Disease Control (CDC) will also participate in these talks at the State Department. Other participants would include officials from the State and Health departments.

The US CDC is a federal agency, under the Department of Health and Human Services, which played a key role in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and in making antiviral vaccines to bring it under control.

The agency’s main goal is the protection of public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability in the US and worldwide. The CDC focuses on curbing infectious disease, environmental health, occupational safety, and educational activities designed to improve the health of US citizens. The CDC also conducts research and provides information on non-infectious diseases, such as obesity and diabetes.

Both sides have prepared a comprehensive agenda for the July 25 talks, aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation in the health sector.

The dialogue will have seven sessions on: establishing a CDC in Pakistan, global health security, childhood immunisations, Covid-19 engagement, regulatory engagements, maternal and child health, and non-communicable diseases. “The health dialogue is an example of the close ties between the United States and Pakistan and a befitting way to celebrate the important milestone of the 75th anniversary of their diplomatic relations,” said a statement issued by the Pakistan Embassy. “Solid progress is expected.”

On Thursday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi met US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Washington and told her that Pakistan views the United States as an “important partner in its efforts to revive” the country’s ailing economy. Later State Department spokesperson Ned Price told journalists that Deputy Secretary Sherman “reaffirmed our shared goals for enhancing the US-Pakistan relationship by advancing our economic and commercial ties and health cooperation”. A Pakistan Embassy press release said Mr Fatemi told the US official that “Pakistan seeks close and cordial relations with the US on the basis of equality, mutual cooperation and mutual benefit”.

Mr Fatemi also said that Islamabad viewed Washington as “an important partner in its efforts to revive Pakistan’s economy.”

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2022

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