Public Services International (PSI) has announced the launch of Pakistan’s first online interactive documentary experience, providing a critical insight into the lives of lady health workers who stand on the frontline against all infectious diseases, saving hundreds of lives every single day.
Lady health workers, part of a government programme developed in 1994, provide basic health care services to underprivileged communities in rural and low-income urban areas. They have played a crucial role in polio vaccine dispensation, pre- and post-natal awareness and healthcare for rural mothers, and health education and promotion, family planning, and most recently, for Covid-19.
As per a press release, the docu-series will be divided into episodes, and Behind the Mask: Pakistan is a key episode that focuses on the struggles faced by healthcare workers, specifically in Pakistan. It chronicles their challenges and the impact of Covid-19 on their lives. With a focus on Hassena, a lady health worker who, along with her colleagues, formed the All-Sindh Lady Health Workers and Employees Union (ASLHWEU) to advocate for better working conditions and wages, the episode also shows how lady health workers face harassment, terrible working conditions, low pay, inflation and wage stagnation, among other issues.
Behind the Mask: Pakistan, PSI campaigns for flood relief, the restoration of the health risk allowance for health workers, provision of the service structure for lady health workers, and the cancellation of debt, including Pakistan’s sovereign debt as part of climate reparations.
Since the documentary was filmed, the health risk allowance has been withdrawn for healthcare workers, despite being constantly at risk, treating patients with infectious diseases. Issues around wages and hiring along with the lack of funding for the health care sector, continue to build and the recent devastating flood has created additional health crises.
The floods have displaced at least 7.9 million people and damaged or destroyed more than 2 million houses and 1,460 health facilities wiping out a large part of the country’s agriculture. Frontline workers are struggling to address the immediate crisis of injured and displaced people while the spread of water-borne diseases and limited medical supplies continue to create further hardship. Indeed, a huge number of Lady Health Workers themselves have been affected by the floods through displacement and illness.
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