KARACHI: In the slum of Sultanabad, tucked away between the city centre of Saddar and the prime land of the port trust, lives a migrant population of Pakhtun, who live on the margins of society in more ways than one.
It was small wonder then that its women, men and children lined up in curiosity or craned their necks out of windows to gatch a glimpse of social enterprise group, Naya Jeevan (New Life), opening a daily walk-in clinic for the neighbourhood on Wednesday.
Zeenat Shaheen, the only active Lady Health Worker in the area, explained why the women of the locality have a reason to be interested in this service. “There is just one female doctor in the area, who charges Rs150 per visit and often about Rs500 for an ultrasound and Rs300 for a drip.” These sums are out of the reach of these families whose women would not necessarily be comfortable seeing a male doctor. But now, the Naya Jeevan clinic is bringing health care within their reach by just charging Rs50 per patient. The OPD will be run six days a week by a male and female doctor each and is equipped to deal with minor emergencies and first aid problems.
But the small clinic is just a part of a larger picture. CEO Dr Asher Hasan explained that they are targeting the community size of 25,000 people who will be given a health plan so they have cash-less access to private hospitals, doctors 24 hours, navigation, tele-health, health education and awareness. This scheme is tailored for daily-wage workers. Each person pays Rs5 per day to become a policy holder.
Naya Jeevan is stepping in to give people sustainable healthcare. A lot of non-government initiatives work in this area but usually desert the public when their funds dry up or their projects end.
Naya Jeevan targets the poor who fall below the Rs20,000 per month income group. Two models work for domestic workers and school children, catering to a net of about 17,000 people across the country. The hospital network is spread across 240 cities but so far the efforts have only taken off in Karachi and some other big cities.
“Our mission is to make sure that every Pakistani, regardless of where they work, has access to quality health care which is also affordable,” said Dr Hasan. In Pakistan, major medical events such as a heart attacks or gynecological complications often lead to financial disaster for families.
Dr Sara Khurram, who will be checking patents at the OPD, said that in the preliminary survey they found that the population is marked by a large household size and generally suffers from diabetes, hepatitis C, high blood pressure, hypertension, interic diseases and maternity complications.
For the first year, USAID has provided Naya Jeevan a grant of $250,000. So the health plan is being provided to the targeted population free of cost for a year from the grant, and after that the community members will be paying for their own plans.
The business is run by buying health insurance policies from insurance companies in bulk. Mobile banking, pharmacy discount cards help.
Naya Jeevan hopes the government will refine and scale up the model to apply across Pakistan. Indeed, the Naya Jeevan model has alraedy been recognised internationally. They were just awarded the Wall Street Journal Asian Innovation Award. Last year they won the World Economic Forum’s Asian Social Entrepreneur of the year award and this year they won the Global entrepreneurship award for Asia.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2012.