Poverty contributes to poor health and prevents people from access to treatment, which traps the world’s poor in a vicious cycle. The inverse is true as well. Poor health often forces people to purchase expensive care and medications, which over time reduces spending money on anything other than healthcare. Additionally, poor health can limit a person’s ability to work and earn an income, which, combined with the cost of healthcare, can lead to poverty. This has been the case with healthcare in Pakistan.

A study by the World Bank reported that 100 million people worldwide are forced to survive on merely $1.90 a day because of healthcare expenses for themselves or a family member. This problem is exacerbated in developing countries where healthcare services are underfunded and understaffed. Millions of families are being pushed into poverty for less than ideal care. Poverty is both a cause and consequence of poor health, especially in developing countries, which makes finding a solution crucial to ending the cycle of poverty caused by poor health. Affordable and accessible healthcare in Pakistan can help end this cycle.

Healthcare in Pakistan

Pakistan is one of the developing countries searching for a way to alleviate poverty for its citizens. Healthcare in Pakistan needs a great deal of improvement. In June 2016, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform found that 39 percent of the country lived in poverty. While poverty rates in the country are declining, there are still over 70 million Pakistanis living on less than $2 a day.  The majority of families living on $2 a day do not have the resources to afford expensive life-saving treatment.

The problem is compounded by the lack of adequate care for the families that can afford health expenses. Less than 3 percent of Pakistan’s domestic budget is targeted towards healthcare, which has impeded medical research and infrastructure from flourishing. The public Pakistani healthcare system has a current backlog of more than 2 million people who are waiting to get surgery due to this lack of infrastructure and funding. Affordable and accessible healthcare is almost nonexistent for poor Pakistanis. This has motivated several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within Pakistan to work to improve health care and make it more affordable.

Transparent Hands

One of the NGOs in Pakistan is Transparent Hands.  Transparent Hands seeks to make life-saving surgery more affordable and accessible for poor Pakistanis by crowdfunding expensive surgeries and building medical camps where patients can receive these surgeries. Currently, the organization has performed 342 surgeries, spent over $350,000 and developed 25 medical camps that have served 8133 patients. Each of these surgeries has had a life-changing impact on different poor Pakistani families.

A representative for Transparent Hands told The Borgen Project that “most of the patients who reach us suffer from serious health conditions due to which they are unable to even perform their household chores. After they undergo surgical treatment, not only do they become active again, they also start working and earning for their family.”

As an example, they shared the story of a patient who actualized this incredible recovery process. “There was a patient who was unable to sit and walk due to Ankylosing Spondylitis. He was dependent on his family for every little need. After the surgery, he is not only able to walk and sit, but he has also started working and is now an independent person.” This alone shows how proper access to healthcare could have a positive impact on the economy.

Affordable and accessible surgery can change someone’s life for the better. It is crucial to bolster the efforts of organizations like Transparent Hands in order to expand their impact throughout the country. Transparent Hands plans to eventually expand their operations from the province of Punjab to all provinces of Pakistan. Affordable and accessible healthcare in Pakistan will help 70 million Pakistanis escape the devastating cycle of poverty and poor health.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Flickr

typhoid fever outbreak in PakistanDoctors are working to find a solution to a typhoid fever outbreak in Pakistan, as this new strain has become highly drug-resistant. The new strain of typhoid was detected in Hyderabad, Pakistan, in 2016 and is slowly being transmitted throughout the country. There are approximately 21 million cases of typhoid worldwide and 220,000 deaths annually. It is estimated that about 800 people have become infected with the new strain of typhoid and four have died. This particular strain or “superbug” is now resistant to five types of antibiotics, due to having acquired an extra strand of DNA.

What Is Typhoid?

Typhoid fever, which can be fatal, is a bacterial infection characterized by stomach pain, headaches, constipation or diarrhea and fever. Typhoid is highly contagious and is typically contracted through food and drink, especially contaminated water. This is most common in areas with poor methods of waste disposal and sanitation. Salmonella typhi, the bacteria connected to the typhoid infection, thrives in an overpopulated environment. It is believed that the origin of the typhoid fever outbreak in Pakistan started with water sources in Hyderabad that are being polluted by leaking sewage pipes.

This drug-resistant infection is not an isolated occurrence. Doctors prescribe around 50 million doses of antibiotics every year for typhoid. Because of the frequent use of antibiotics in medicine and farming, bacteria continue to mutate and adapt to drugs.

Preserving the Last Line of Defense Against the Typhoid Fever Outbreak in Pakistan

Public health officials and experts are imploring citizens in affected areas to boil water, practice good hygiene, avoid raw foods and receive the vaccination. In the future, the sanitation infrastructure will need to be revamped. Although two vaccines have been used in the past to prevent typhoid, the WHO has recommended a new vaccine with longer-lasting immunity in an effort to control the typhoid fever outbreak in Pakistan and other countries with a high number of infected people.

It requires fewer doses than the previous two and can be administered to children starting at the age of 6 months, which can reduce the use of antibiotics and slow antibiotic resistance. The Sindh health department has already begun distributing the vaccine in Hyderabad as part of an emergency inoculation campaign. The goal is to vaccinate 250,000 children in the area using the vaccine, called Typbar-TCV.

There has been a small pushback on the vaccination campaign from members of the community who fear Western infiltration, as many citizens believe that the vaccines have been poisoned. This is most likely a reaction to when a supposed hepatitis B campaign gathered information before the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The vaccine has received the support of GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, in the form of $85 million to ensure the vaccines get to people in need in developing nations. It will become routine in immunization programs in 2019. It is a key part of the effort to end the typhoid fever outbreak in Pakistan and reduce the number of future outbreaks worldwide.

– Camille Wilson

Photo: Flickr