Pakistan's Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh holds a copy of the "Pakistan Economic Survey 2010-11" report during a press conference in Islamabad on June 2, 2011. – Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Survey 2010-11 has painted a bleak picture of the health sector, particularly with regard to the infectious and other diseases.

According to the survey report, the HIV epidemic has moved from a low-prevalence to concentrated state with 90,000 to 100,000 people testing positive for the virus --- about 0.1 per cent of the total population.

As the situation unfolds, the crisis among high-risk groups, especially the users of injected drugs, is getting deeper. The total number of full-blown AIDS cases stands at 3,050. A recent survey among the high-risk groups indicates an average HIV prevalence of 20 per cent among consumers of injected drugs.

The survey noted that Pakistan still ranked eighth among the countries with the highest burden of tuberculosis (TB) in the world. The disease accounts for 5.1 per cent of the total national disease burden.

About drug abuse, which is spreading fast and affecting the country in many ways, the survey said the menace entailed heavy social and economic costs.

Trafficking of Afghan drugs into Pakistan and smuggling of precursor chemicals to Afghanistan continue to pose serious challenges to Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies and healthcare system.

In order to address the issue from Pakistan’s perspective and in view of the changes in global narcotics environment, the National Anti-Narcotics Policy-2010 has been prepared which is based on a three-pronged strategy --- involving drug supply reduction, drug demand reduction and international cooperation.

A new drug control master plan (2010-14) has also been formulated to reduce health, social and economic costs associated with drug-trafficking and substance abuse in Pakistan. The plan includes short-, medium- and long-term initiatives for implementation of the NANP-2010.

The survey noted that Pakistan was one of the three countries with the highest confiscation rate for narcotics drugs and precursor chemicals. During the year 2010-11, 20,567kg of hashish, 3,456.5kg of morphine, 879.6kg of opium and 725.4kg of heroin were seized.

The incidence of cancer is increasing and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) has established 14 cancer hospitals in different cities to provide treatment facilities to the patients.

The year also saw a decline in health expenditures to Rs42 billion from Rs79 billion the previous year, a reduction of 0.23 per cent of GDP. This is contrary to the progressive increase in the health budget over the past several years, with Rs24.3 billion being spent in 2000-01 and Rs79 billion in 2009-10.

In 2010, there were 144,901 physicians in public hospitals, 10,508 dentists, 73,244 nurses and 27,153 midwives. There were 972 public hospitals with 104,137 beds, 4,842 dispensaries and 5,344 basic health units (BHUs), mostly in rural areas.

According to the survey, the population versus health facilities ratios work out to 1,222 persons per doctor, one dentist for 16,854 people and one hospital bed for 1,701 people.

The targets for the sector for 2010-11 included establishment of 15 rural health centres (RHC) and 40 basic health units (BHUs) and upgradation of 45 RHCs and 900 BHUs. The manpower target included the induction of 5,000 doctors, 450 dentists, 3,500 nurses, 5,500 paramedics and 500 traditional birth attendants.

Currently a total of 82 development schemes with the PSDP allocation of Rs16.9 billion are being executed through the health ministry. About Rs7.411 billion of the allocation has already been released by the Planning Commission. Out of the released amount, Rs6.3 billion, or 85 per cent, was utilised by programmes/projects by Jan 2011.