Federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel has said that the federal government is aiming to expand universal health coverage, ARY News reported on Thursday. Addressing the World Health Assembly in Geneva, the minister said that the anniversary of WHO signifies an important moment in global collaboration when countries of the world came together and founded WHO, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. He said that the health authorities are ensuring easy public access to standard medicines and protection from emergency situations. A comprehensive strategy has been formulated to provide universal health coverage and the government also signed the UHC 2030 agreement besides increasing investment in the health sector. “We highly appreciate and endorse the DG WHO report, which has outlined the key priorities to be focused upon within the health sector that is, enhancing Universal Health Coverage, tackling health emergencies and ensuring the Health and well-being of our people.” He added, “In this regard, we endorse the recommendation of the report. We believe, that it would be critical for reorienting health systems to primary health care, as a resilient foundation for universal health coverage, by integrating within it protection from health emergencies, increasing access to quality drugs, strengthening diagnostics capacity, prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and mental health and strengthening rehabilitation services in health systems.” He said that Pakistan has now moved towards the implementation of its essential package of health services during 2023, with enhanced investments by the government while some of the financial gaps are filled by the development partners. Considering the health workforce crises in Pakistan, the government has decided to increase the number of community-based lady health workers from 89,000 to 135,000 within five years, he added. Qadir said Pakistan considers the implementation of international health regulations (IHR) as a priority agenda as we have faced a number of health emergencies, including Covid 19 pandemic, mpox, Polio, floods, earthquakes and heat waves, etc. The government is cognizant of the fact that building and sustaining essential public health core capacities are critical for national responses to public health events. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that not only public health systems across the countries have been challenged, but it has also tested the capabilities of other sectors and reflected on the level of preparedness of our health systems against pandemics and public health emergency events, said a press release. He said that Pakistan is the only country in the region, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, had to shoulder another disaster in the shape of massive flooding in 2022, displacing 30 million people, destroying crops, damaging health infrastructure and causing considerable loss of around US$ 20 billion. “We highly appreciate the Global Community and especially Secretary General, United Nations General Assembly, for supporting Pakistan.” In order to further strengthen public health systems’ preparedness, for an efficient response to pandemics, emergencies and disasters, the country is undergoing a second round of Joint External Evaluation to identify the critical gaps and provide key recommendations for developing health security plans. “We are also committed to developing synergies between health security and universal health coverage for a more sustainable response in the country.”