The coronavirus pandemic has hit Pakistan when it is not even prepared for medical undertakings like dengue or measles. Some, however, argue that the collapse of health infrastructure even in developed countries suggest that this pandemic would have overwhelmed our system irrespective of how well-prepared we had been. True, but the difference between the systems in other countries and here is that we are nowhere near adequately responding or bouncing back from this shock.
As the number of Covid-19 cases near 11,000 with more than 200 deaths, a glimmer of hope has emerged for our resource-starved public health sector. The World Health Organisation (WHO), with support from the UK’s Department of International Development, has reached out to Pakistan with £2.67 million aid. The money will be used to fill healthcare gaps and provide the essential personal protective equipment (PPE) to doctors in 27 districts across the country. The fund will also enhance local capacity to identify and diagnose Covid-19 cases and manage them through effective prevention and control measures.
Further, the British High Commissioner has said the UK is looking to repurpose its other aid, worth around £100 million, to help protect the most vulnerable people in Pakistan through economic relief or social security packages. Our aid dependency aside, this would greatly augment local efforts — both in the public and private sector — to provide relief.
Of late, the coronavirus is showing an exponential growth in Pakistan. Even as the government urges the public to adopt social distancing while allowing businesses to reopen, one expects that the burden on hospitals will increase in the coming days. The support from the UK and the WHO could be critical in ensuring that the health systems here do not collapse — for if they do, we will have a far bigger tragedy to deal with than in any other countries of the world.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2020.
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