The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its predecessor, the Health Organization, was an agency of the League of Nations. The main responsibility was to help anybody in need of medical assistance.
WHO presence in Pakistan
The WHO Representative’s Office established in 1960 in Pakistan supports the Government and health authorities in strengthening health services, addressing public health issues and supporting and promoting research for health.
Physicians, public health specialists, scientists, social scientists and epidemiologists provide appropriate technical support and collaboration upon the request or acceptance of national authorities.
As the lead health agency, WHO works with many partners to support countries in reaching their national health development goals and to ensure that its efforts are coordinated. Across the Region, these include United Nations agencies, humanitarian and development partners, donors, nongovernmental organizations, WHO collaborating centers and the private sector.
WHO works with the Planning Commission, Pakistan, to agree on the collaborative programme of work for WHO and the Government of Pakistan at the federal level, and to promote the inclusion of health in all policies and national development plans.
WHO also works with the Inter Provincial Coordination Ministry, to ensure coordination on health issues with provincial health authorities, and with the Economic Affairs Division for donor coordination.
However, since the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, provincial health departments have become the main actors for both planning and implementation of health programmes and service delivery.
Areas of collaboration
Since the establishment of its country office in Pakistan in 1960, WHO has provided a wide range of technical support to the Government of Pakistan. This has been mainly in the health sector across a wide spectrum of health-related activities ranging from policy, strategic planning, health system and community development, health promotion and communicable disease control.
Working within the overall framework of the WHO mandate and in line with governmental priorities and responsibilities, Country Cooperation Strategies have been developed for six-year periods, reflecting the medium term strategic vision. In addition, joint collaborative programmes have been developed for each biennium to outline specific areas of cooperation between the two partners.
The major areas of WHO collaboration with GoP
- Health sector policy and reforms
- Health system strengthening, including capacity-building of the human workforce for health
- Expanded Programme on Immunization and the Polio Eradication Initiative
- Disease Early Warning System
- Control of tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria
- Family planning and primary health care
- Emergency preparedness and humanitarian assistance
- Provision of essential medicines
- Assisting in providing safe water and other environmental health issues
- Community-based initiatives
Non-communicable disease prevention and control, including the Tobacco Free Initiative, promotion of healthy lifestyles, prevention of avoidable blindness and mental health.
Through the United Nations Delivering as One initiative in Pakistan, WHO is also converging the efforts of over 12 United Nations agencies, offices and funds in the health and population sectors to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Devolution of the health sector
WHO views the devolution of the health sector in Pakistan as an opportunity and signaling an increasing shift from playing a role in programme implementation to being an effective advocate and catalyst for strategic development of the health sector.
This warrants the strengthening of the capacities of the country office and sub-offices in order to fulfil the essential technical, managerial, advocacy, representation and partnership functions. This is to be facilitated by all levels of the Organization.
The Provincial Operations Officers have been assigned as heads of WHO sub-offices in their respective provinces, alongside an enhanced leverage in financial and managerial issues.
These sub-offices will be gradually provided with adequate technical staff to perform the key roles of advising on health strategy formulation, health system strengthening and quality implementation of mother, newborn and child health, nutrition, communicable diseases control and health promotion interventions with the support of the country office.