ISLAMABAD,(Parliament Times): COMSATS South Asian Member States gathered to share governmental and institutional experiences in COVID-19 response during an international webinar on ‘Digital Health in COVID-19: Sharing Experiences of COMSATS’ South Asian Member States’. The event was jointly organized by the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) and the Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health (CWCDH). The Webinar helped bring forward the COVID-19 related digital health developments and experiences in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan highlighting the issues faced by digital health stakeholders during these developments. The event was attended by a significant number of relevant individuals from Pakistan and abroad.
In his welcome remarks, Dr. S. M. Junaid Zaidi thanked the Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health (CWCDH) led by Dr. Vajira Dissanayake for jointly organizing the webinar and called for joint efforts within the South for due utilization of digital health technologies to fight the pandemic and to strengthen the healthcare systems. The distinguished guests that spoke on the occasion included Dr. Vajira Dissanayake, Chairperson at Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health; Dr. Selim Reza, Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Science and Technology of Bangladesh; Prof. Dr. Md. Aftab Ali Shaikh, Chairman of the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), Bangladesh; Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Former Director General, Health Services, Sri Lanka; H.E Vice Admiral (Retd.) Mohan Wijewickrama, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Pakistan; and Amb. (R) Fauzia Nasreen, Advisor (SDGs) at COMSATS Secretariat.
Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister of Pakistan, on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection and Federal Minister, thanked COMSATS for organizing the present webinar and encouraged COMSATS’ role as a leader in the use of digital technologies. Sharing Pakistan’s experience, she especially highlighted the role of Government’s ‘Ehsaas’ Programme that helped manage the situation from pandemic response as well as poverty alleviation angles. She informed that Pakistan’s experience of dealing with the pandemic is also being shared with missions in Geneva and New York. Dr. Nishtar showed willingness to engage in more international fora on digital health technologies through COMSATS.
Chairing the technical session, Dr. Ghazna Khalid, Member PM’s Task Force on COVID-19 Pakistan, congratulated the three COMSATS’ member states on working and coming together to create a solidarity drive amid the pandemic that could help share valuable information and experience on the utilization of digital technologies and telehealth. She deemed CDWH a lynchpin in establishing and strengthening such collaborations, while also encouraging 27 member states of COMSATS to create a pandemic solidarity drive.
The digital health experts and practitioners from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, further delineated on measures, policies and best practices that were utilized to cope with the pandemic in their countries. These Governments’ responses to the global menace and stringent measures that helped contain the pandemic from incurring the huge projected losses were appreciated. The meeting discussions led to fruitful discussions on cooperation in policy and strategy sharing at governments and institutional levels; data collection and analytics; joint publications based on indigenous researches and success stories; training of doctors and young practitioners for better pandemic response; application of digital technologies for pandemic as well as for non-emergency response, building better infrastructure in remote areas that are affected the most in both situations.