ISLAMABAD: The non-payment of salaries to hard-pressed Lady Health Workers (LHW) is affecting their bread and butter.
Almost four months have passed since they received their salaries. “Life has become really difficult. Even shopkeepers have stopped lending us things on credit,” said one Lady Health Worker, who wished to remain anonymous.
A majority of the LHWs are the sole breadearners of their families; some are widows while others have handicapped husbands. With delays in salaries, their daily family lives are badly affected having no other source of income.
“The condition is such that we do not even have money to buy a packet of salt or a match box,” the woman said. Her relatives have also stopped lending her money.
Since May 2010, they have also not been given petrol and car repair allowances due to which they are finding it hard to commute to far-flung areas to perform their duties.
“We had been bearing petrol expenses from our own pocket; now the situation has worsened and we cannot further afford it anymore,” another LHW said.
The cars provided to them for work purposes are standing in Basic Health Units much like decoration pieces as the staff is using other cheap modes of transport.
“Being females, it has become hard for us to travel in the local transport or request our male colleagues to give us lifts on motor bikes,” she added.
When the LHWs tried to approach higher-ups in the health department, they were told their requests could not be entertained due to shortage of funds.
“We even told them that if we do not get our salaries this month we will resign from our posts. They responded that it would not affect them as there are many women in the country who are looking for jobs.”
The national head of the Lady Health Workers Programme Dr Iqbal Lehri said it was not for the first time that there was a delay in the release of salaries of the LHWs.
The LHW programme is funded under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) under which the salaries are released on a quarterly basis,” he added.
“However, it takes time to divide them according to the provinces and distribute them among the LHWs,” he said.
He said the workers would get their salaries within five to six days.
The LHWs agreed there were delays in the past but this time the period had stretched to four months. They also expressed concern over getting only a month’s salary of Rs7,000 after a two or three month delay.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2011.