Pakistani PM Calls for Bridging Global Health Inequity at World Economic Forum

Pakistani PM Shehbaz Sharif calls for global efforts to bridge healthcare inequities at the World Economic Forum, highlighting his personal experience and Pakistan's climate change challenges.

Rizwan Shah
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Pakistani PM Calls for Bridging Global Health Inequity at World Economic Forum

Pakistani PM Calls for Bridging Global Health Inequity at World Economic Forum

On Sunday, April 28, 2024, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addressed the World Economic Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, calling for collective efforts to bridge the global health inequity gap between the Global North and South. Sharif highlighted the glaring disparities in healthcare access and resources that were exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated by climate change-induced disasters like the devastating floods that hit Pakistan in 2022.

Sharif shared his personal experience of being diagnosed with a "nasty cancer" in 2003 and having to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for treatment in New York. "If this is the condition of a prime minister, what about the common man?" he asked, emphasizing the need to make expensive treatments more accessible to all. "I have gone through this and I know what it means to be a cancer patient in a developing country like Pakistan," Sharif said.

The Prime Minister noted that despite Pakistan bearing no responsibility for global emissions, the country had to allocate billions of rupees to rehabilitate people affected by the 2022 floods. He questioned whether developing nations like Pakistan could afford such costly loans to address the impacts of climate change.

Why this matters: The global health inequity gap between the Global North and South has significant implications for the well-being and economic stability of developing nations. Addressing this disparity is critical for achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring that all individuals have access to quality healthcare, regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographic location.

Sharif also highlighted his successful initiatives as the former Chief Minister of Punjab, such as providing free cancer treatment, establishing a kidney and liver hospital, and effectively controlling a major dengue outbreak in 2011. He expressed appreciation for the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Pakistan's polio eradication efforts.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed Sharif's sentiments, stressing the need for collective action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and address the lack of access to basic health services for 4.9 billion people globally. Participants at the forum emphasized the importance of increased investments in the health sector and the role of resource-rich countries in aiding vulnerable communities.

In his meetings with the Emir of Kuwait and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, Sharif discussed opportunities for economic cooperation and the completion of ongoing projects funded by the Islamic Development Bank in Pakistan. The Prime Minister reaffirmed his government's commitment to building a better future for the Pakistani people through foreign investment and economic development, stating, "We have to work tirelessly to ensure that we can provide a better future to the people of Pakistan."

Key Takeaways

  • PM Sharif called for global efforts to bridge healthcare inequity between North and South.
  • Sharif shared his personal experience of costly cancer treatment, highlighting accessibility issues.
  • Pakistan bore climate change costs despite low emissions, questioning developing nations' ability to afford it.
  • Sharif highlighted his past initiatives to provide free cancer treatment and control dengue.
  • Sharif discussed economic cooperation and development projects with Kuwaiti Emir and IMF chief.