The main reason that millions in Sindh province, especially, had conviction in the work Abdul Sattar Edhi did is because there was not much they could expect from the state-run health facilities. This remains one of Sindh’s major tragedies: patients often become hapless after first responders transport them to hospitals because according to one set of reported numbers, even private hospitals only host 70 per cent of required hospital facilities, compared with 30 per cent at government hospitals. The ‘health emergency’ label hardly resulted in progress in 2017 and we hope that as we leave that year behind, the low statistics likewise become facts and figures of the past.
Many ‘basic’ diseases like measles, typhoid and Congo virus should have been done away with long ago and newer ones like chikungunya require immediate curtailing measures going forward. It is an enigmatic state of affairs that some public health institutions have been handed over to private organisations; this hardly seems like a viable long-term solution. However, it is logical for immediate relief on the strained healthcare system. Systematic change should begin with instituting preventative measures such as citywide fumigation at regular intervals, especially in seasons that see high dengue and other outbreaks, but the best practices would have to be evaluated based on which strategy is safer for humans. For example, fumigation chemicals contain known carcinogens, some of which are not regulated in Pakistan. Thus, health experts have to be consulted before government officials attempt to establish adhoc plans.
Ventures that began from foreign and domestic private philanthropic donations have resulted in positive health outcomes for the country. At some point, however, the government needs to jump onboard and support campaigns that will improve healthcare for 2018, such as it did to combat polio in 2017. Whether the label ‘emergency’ is paid heed, there is a lot of work to be done for 2018 in healthcare, including better hygiene awareness on the part of the public.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2018.
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