Pakistan provided leadership to the cause of access to assistive technologies for the aging population, people suffering from non-communicable diseases and persons with disabilities, at the World Health Assembly in progress in Geneva. A special event was organized by Pakistan to chart a way forward for countries to take concrete measures in improving access to assistive technologies for those who need them. Pakistan was supported in hosting the event by China, Italy and Iraq.
Ambassador of Pakistan and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva Farrukh Amil presided over the event while Director General Health Dr. Assad Hafeez participated. The event was attended by a large number of heads of country delegations to the World Health Assembly, ambassadors and high ranking officials from several countries including heads of leading global institutions and INGOs. Speaking on the occasion Pakistan’s Ambassador Farrukh Amil mentioned the efforts made by Pakistan to promote the cause making special reference to the recently held meeting of regional countries hosted by Pakistan in Islamabad to develop the first regional strategic action framework for assistive technologies.
Farrukh Amil said major success was achieved when Pakistan was able to lobby for the assent of the WHO Executive Board to table a resolution on the subject in the current World Health Assembly. “This is victory for the one billion people across the globe living with various kinds of disabilities”, he said. Addressing the high level event Pakistan’s Director General Health said the cause was championed at all global and regional fora by Federal Health Minister Saira Afzal Tarar and 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.
He further said that the presence in large numbers of the participants and speakers today is a testimony to the growing interest and commitment to the cause of the Member States of the WHO. World Health Organization’s first Global Champion for Assistive Technologies, a Pakistani doctor, Sana Hafeez, addressed the event and related her journey of being afflicted with disability after an accident and how it inspired her to convert her challenge in to strength and become a voice for those needing assistive devices.
Tajikistan Deputy Health Minister Dr. Aziz Abdosattar Odinazoda appreciated the initiative taken by Pakistan and pledged his fullest support to the cause. We must stand up for the people who need our help and governments must commit to improving access to these products he said. 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 cutting edge 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 to support Member States in developing the strategic roadmap for improving access to Assistive Technology Ambassador of Ecuador Luis Gallegos, head global funds of Department for International Development U.K. Dr. Danny Graymore also addressed the event. Leading Non-Governmental organizations from across the world participated in the event and expressed resolve to stand with Pakistan and other countries in ensuring that access to assistive technologies is given as a right to those in need.—INP