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KARACHI, April 6: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) on Saturday said that none of the political parties participating in the general elections had given health any priority in their election manifestos, which is the most prioritised sector throughout in the world.

“Ironically, ‘revolution’ has been the buzzword in Pakistani politics as the nation gets ready to go to the polls, and yet no political party has focused on the key health sector in their election manifestos. They have just touched on health issues more as a formality than anything else. They do not have any plans and, indeed, there are no commitments,” said Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, secretary general of the PMA (centre), in a statement issued on the eve of World Health Day.

The World Health Day is being observed globally on Sunday to mark the foundation day of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Public health is a victim of misplaced priorities and widespread corruption. It is time the government realise that what the country need is an efficient primary and emergency healthcare system and provision of basic facilities; not lavish expenditure on tertiary care centres and elite medical towers,” he said.

“Up to 70 per cent of Pakistanis have no access to primary and emergency care, 1.2 million people die of water-borne diseases annually, a child dies of some disease every minute and 70 women die of pregnancy-related complications every day,” the PMA statement said and added that the government had no justification to spend money on lavish projects.

He said vested interest lobbies were active in the arena representing the biggest hurdle in the way of any effective usage of whatever funds the health sector got.

“It is a shame that Iran and Bangladesh successfully eradicated polio with six and four rounds, respectively, while new polio cases are still being reported in Pakistan despite having over 70 rounds of vaccinations.”

World Health Day is being observed across the globe to highlight the significance of investing in the key health sector. The focus this year is on hypertension (blood pressure) that has been known as the silent killer.

According to the WHO, 40 per cent of adults aged 25 and over have high blood pressure and 17.3 million people die from cardiovascular diseases in the world each year.

“With the kind of stress factors that are an unfortunate part of human existence in Pakistan, the implications of these statistics cannot be over-emphasised,” a health expert said.

The PMA statement said that the PMA and its network of branches across the country “have been actively lobbying at all possible levels to improve the healthcare delivery mechanism in the country which, beyond doubt, is going from bad to worse day by day”.

The WHO had recommended an expenditure of six per cent of the national GDP on health while in Pakistan less than two per cent was the norm and the results were visible to all, the PMA statement said.

The PMA urged political parties, their leaders and all other stakeholders to wake up to the grave situation and do something for the masses “in whose name they run — and want to run — the country. All health indicators are pathetically low to the point of being unacceptable in this day and age”.

The PMA demanded that six per cent of the GDP was spent on health and the expenditure was properly monitored to ensure transparency.