17 Jan World Pneumonia Day 2017: Pakistan
This story is a part of the World Pneumonia Day (WPD) 2017 Global Activities Round-Up Series. This year, countries around the world held events and campaigns. In Pakistan, journalists and public health advocates combined forces to draw the attention of parliamentarians to immunization issues in the nation.
Published on January 17, 2018
By Huma Khawar
The journalists who attended the media workshop in Sindh gather for a photo.
A Press Conference in Sindh
On the eve of World Pneumonia Day in Pakistan, a select group of 12 senior journalists were brought together by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for a press conference in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. The journalists came from all over Pakistan, and worked in a variety of outlets, including electronic, print (daily and periodical), and online media. During the media workshop, the journalists were sensitized on pneumonia prevention issues in Karachi. For example, journalists learned that there are serious concerns about disparities in immunization coverage within the districts of Karachi, where there are an estimated 500,000 under-immunized children in the urban slum areas.
Journalists came out of the workshop sensitized to the upcoming World Pneumonia Day, and they were armed with relevant data. During this press conference, leading Pakistani health experts, including Dr. D.S. Akram (Professor of Pediatrics, Diplomate American Boards in Pediatrics; Hon. Chairperson of the Health, Education & Literacy Programme (Pakistan)) and Dr. Syed Jamal Raza (Director of the National Institute of Child Health, Head of National Institute of Child Health at Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center and President, Pakistan Pediatrics Association, Sindh) were available to respond to journalist questions. In addition, Dr. Agha Ashfaque, Project Director Sindh EPI, explained the journey of immunization delivery to the journalists, sharing the challenges faced by the government’s immunization program with regard to urban immunization and slums in Karachi.
In the coming days after the workshop, 16 articles were published about pneumonia and World Pneumonia Day in Pakistani media. The articles contained recent data, which painted a stark picture of the state of child health mortality in Pakistan, and led to call for necessary action.
During the media workshop the journalists were motivated to bring political accountability for low routine immunization (RI) coverage and overall low status of child health. The journalists agreed to engage parliamentarians and policymakers in their advocacy efforts by raising issues of immunization coverage and RI strengthening onto the agendas of the parliamentarians in their provinces.
Action by Policymakers
Due to their efforts, Sindh lawmakers have started taking interest. One of the journalists, Zulfiqar Kumber, published a World Pneumonia Day story in The Daily Times , in which he spoke to parliamentarians of Sindh Assembly about the sorely neglected topic of immunization. From this conversation, the parliamentarians vowed to take up the issue of immunization on the floor of the Assembly. Thus, on November 23, 2017, Khurrum Sher Zaman, a PTI lawmaker tabled an adjournment motion regarding government’s failure to effectively control pneumonia in Sindh. Zaman stressed the issue of increased EPI coverage, presenting it as a critical matter that needed to be discussed on the floor. He cited the fact that “90,000 children die before the age of five due to pneumonia every year [in Pakistan]. This includes 20,000 children of Sindh as well.”
While the chair referred a privilege motion to the relevant committee, the ruling party refused to discuss on the matter on the floor of the house. It is clear that the issue of immunization is of national importance, and a more robust advocacy strategy should be developed beyond World Pneumonia Day to ensure parliamentarians give the issue the attention it deserves.
World Pneumonia Day and immunization-related media:
- Experts call for investment in pneumonia prevention and treatment – The International News
- SA refuses debate on failure to control pneumonia in Sindh – Daily Times
- Preventable Disease – Dawn
- Why is Sindh failing to control deadly pneumonia? – Daily Times
- Poor routine immunization could prove fatal for Sindh’s infants – Tribune
- 92,000 children under five die of pneumonia annually – Dawn
- Parents urged to get children vaccinated against pneumonia – Dawn
- Stop pneumonia: Invest in Child Health – The Nation
- Pneumonia claims 92,000 children’s lives annually – The Express Tribune
- World Pneumonia Day: Pediatricians call for vaccination of children against pneumonia – The Express Tribune
- Pneumonia; one of most infectious disease – Pakistan Observer