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WHO’s regional chief launches multiple health facilities in Islamabad

Islamabad:The Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari inaugurated two COVID-19 vaccination centres, a laboratory for infectious disease testing, a nutrition stabilization centre for children, and a refurbished gymnasium to combat Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) here on the first day of his week-long visit to Pakistan.

WHO Representative Dr. Palitha Mahipala and representatives from the government participated in the events. Dr. Al-Mandhari is in Pakistan to participate in the Polio Oversight Board visit, meet high-level leadership, and support the emergency response to COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is facing two Public Health Emergencies of International Concern: polio and COVID-19. I appreciate the government’s robust response to both. With this dual challenge, it is one of my key priorities to mobilize political and financial support for the country,” said Dr. Al-Mandhari.

Speaking at the opening of the newest vaccination centre in Sector G-9 and during his visit to the mass vaccination centre in Sector F-9, Dr. Al-Mandhari highlighted the importance of vaccination in the response to COVID-19. “Vaccination is a key tool in ending this pandemic, but it is not a magic bullet that can do this alone. People still need to adhere to proven measures that work, such as mask use and physical distancing. While it’s reassuring to see so many people being vaccinated, no one is safe until everyone is safe, and we all need to play a part in protecting others who may still be at risk,” Dr. Al-Mandhari stressed.

In order to strengthen access to high-quality health services, WHO has also been supporting the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), where Dr. Al-Mandhari inaugurated the refurbished molecular diagnostic lab which increases COVID-19 testing capacity with up to 400 tests per day. This will support timely detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks, like COVID-19.

Additionally, Dr. Al-Mandhari opened the nutrition stabilization centre in PIMS, proclaiming it state-of-the-art and serving as an example for the Region. The centre is now capable of treating critical children with severe complications, as well as addressing early child development in the playroom, facilitating swift recoveries.

Pakistan faces a high burden of NCDs, accounting for an estimated 57 per cent of all deaths. This mostly comprises cardiovascular diseases (30%), cancers (8%) and respiratory diseases (5%). Physical inactivity, directly contributing to NCDs, is a global public health problem. To address this, WHO has supported gyms, mostly open-air, with free access to the public in Islamabad. Opening the eighth gym of Islamabad for residents living close to the National Institute of Health, Dr. Al-Mandhari said, “Increasing physical activity is the best way to keep healthy and I encourage everyone to benefit from these facilities.”

Meeting with Minister of Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed and other state officials, Dr. Al-Mandhari advocated to put health at the centre of the development agenda in Pakistan, stressing that good health and well-being were the key foundations of a prosperous society.

At the end of his first day, Dr. Al-Mandhari commented, “I have been very impressed with the government of Pakistan and its robust health response. My admiration also goes to the courageous and hard-working health workers I’ve met today. This strengthens my resolve to ensure WHO continues to receive all the required support to advance their Universal Health Care agenda. Good health is a human right, and no-one should be left behind.”

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