Girl well being employees: The unsung heroes of Pakistan’s healthcare system – Pakistan
It’s about time the govt. recognises the work of LHWs in Pakistan. This additionally requires listening to their issues and offering sturdy, holistic options.
In November 2022, a truck carrying police personnel was targeted in a suicide attack in Quetta, Balochistan, killing 4 folks and wounding one other 27. The goal had been police personnel, en route to offer safety to polio employees.
Polio groups, which largely comprise woman well being employees (LHWs), have been the goal of scores of attacks over the past decade or so. Though there aren’t any official data on the variety of well being employees’ lives misplaced to terrorist assaults, media reports declare that over a 100 individuals related to vaccination campaigns have been killed since 2012.
In August 2012, the World Well being Organisation (WHO)’s Regional Director to the Japanese Mediterranean, Dr Ala Awan urged the Pakistani authorities to offer and guarantee security for polio vaccination groups.
Armed police escorts had been directed to accompany polio groups, however regardless of this, many groups nonetheless got here below assault, killing each polio employees and police personnel.
seven polio-endemic districts in Southern KP. In 2022, 20 polio cases were detected in Pakistan. The variety of instances has considerably decreased from final yr as a result of relentless work of LHWs. Till March this yr, no new instances had been reported. Nevertheless, on March 15, a brand new case of a three-year-old boy identified with polio emerged from Bannu district — one of many seven polio-endemic districts in KP.
Whereas the discount in case numbers is comparatively excellent news, polio stays a tough battle for the nation.
“We’re the primary to be affected from any illness, virus or sickness as we’re despatched to vaccinate folks,” mentioned Uzma*, an LHW from Sindh. “We is probably not contaminated however we are able to develop into carriers and develop into the supply of virus transmission to our households. It was extraordinarily disturbing for us as we had been afraid our households could be contaminated through the pandemic.”
allowance, however we weren’t given masks, hand sanitisers or PPEs to guard us from the virus once we visited houses. The allowance, which was fairly useful as our revenue is sort of low, stopped when the marketing campaign stopped. We must be given common increments as this job is hazardous not solely to the LHWs however to our households as effectively.”
In 2022, members of the All Girl Well being Employees Programme Union organised protests across the country which lasted for greater than a month. Issues turned severe when the authorities cracked down on the protesters sitting outdoors the Karachi Press Membership (KPC). LHWs had been baton-charged by police and water cannons had been used; a number of had been taken into custody.
“Our union has been working exhausting for the rights of LHWs and as you noticed we had been brutalised in Karachi once we had been protesting in entrance of Karachi Press Membership,” mentioned Noor Fatima, an LHW and union member. “Not solely had been our members crushed and dragged, their garments had been torn and water cannons had been used on us. Many had been injured and plenty of extra had been taken into custody. We had been solely asking for our rights.”
Earlier in February 2023, Bushra Arain, president of the All Girl Well being Employees Programme Union, was additionally manhandled in Karachi. It did little to dampen her spirit.
“We’ll proceed to struggle for our rights — we’re an essential a part of the healthcare system in Pakistan,” Arain informed Daybreak.com. “LHWs present the much-needed medical care that individuals want particularly in rural areas and in low-income areas however what do they get in return? Their function is significant, however it’s under-appreciated. We solely ask for what’s our proper.”
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that Pakistan is already a signatory to can enhance the working situations of LHWs.
Out of 17 SDGs, not less than eight immediately have an effect on LHWs together with poverty, zero starvation, good well being and well-being, high quality training, gender equality, clear water and sanitation, respectable work and financial progress, and robust establishments. Working in the direction of these objectives for all would go a good distance in bettering the lives and dealing situations of LHWs.
The names of some LHWs have been modified or withheld to guard privateness
Header Picture: Feminine polio employee marks a home as visited after vaccinating kids at a Christian colony slum in Lahore, 2012. — Photograph: A.M Syed/Shutterstock