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KARACHI: The latest episode of SBP Podcast series discussed the challenges faced by Pakistan in the healthcare and education sectors, exacerbated by recent crises, such as the floods that hit the country.

The podcast highlighted the role played by overseas Pakistanis through their donations in healthcare and education sectors and how SBP is striving to facilitate them by digitizing the overall process.

The guests in the podcast were Dr. Abdul Bari Khan, Founder and President of the ‘Indus Hospital and Health Network’; Asfandyar Inayat, General Manager of ‘The Citizens Foundation’, an organization working to improve access to education across the country; and Abid Qamar, Chief Spokesman of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Abid Qamar explained that State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) launched an initiative called Roshan Digital Account (RDA) in September 2020 that connects overseas Pakistanis with the banking system of Pakistan without them having to visit Pakistan or any embassy of Pakistan.

Roshan Samaji Khidmat is an exclusive product of RDA that aims to connect overseas Pakistanis who want to send donations in Pakistan.

It aims to make the donation process easy and hassle-free for donors, who can now use the RDA portal to connect with charity organizations. Apart from Roshan Samaji Khidmat, RDA also offers different types of products to facilitate overseas Pakistanis such as Roshan Apna Ghar for buying a house in Pakistan and Roshan Apni Car for purchasing a car for family members in Pakistan.

Dr. Bari explained that Pakistan ranks very low in almost all healthcare indicators. The floods that hit the country last year have further damaged the healthcare infrastructure, especially in Sindh and Baluchistan.

The Indus Hospital network, which started with a blood bank and an emergency center, has now grown to consist of 15 hospitals across the country, serving around 500,000 patients per month. The organization receives donations from across the country and from overseas Pakistanis each year.

Asfandyar Inayat stated that education is a critical issue in Pakistan, with UNICEF reporting that Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of children out of school. The Citizens Foundation runs more than 1,800 education schools across the country in both rural and urban areas, providing secure, economical, and close-to-home schools for children.

The organization provided 5 million meals and distributed aid to around 25,000 families after the floods. Around 44 schools of TCF were destroyed in the floods but have now been restored, and all schools are fully functional.

Dr. Bari, and Isfandyar, talked about the origins and growth of their organizations. Dr. Bari discussed how his realization of the poor conditions of hospitals in Pakistan led him to establish an emergency center and eventually the Indus Hospital. Through the contributions of donors, the hospital has expanded to 15 locations with around 2,500 beds serving 500,000 patients per month.

The hospital’s budget has also grown significantly, from Rs.100 million to Rs. 45 billion within a few years.

Meanwhile, Isfandyar shared the story of how five friends founded The Citizens Foundation in 1996 with the goal of providing quality education to underprivileged children. Starting with just five schools in Karachi, the organization has since expanded to 1,000 schools across the country, providing amenities such as playgrounds, libraries, and computer labs.

The foundation also focuses on teaching digital skills and has a faculty that is 100% female, making them the largest female employer in Pakistan after the government.

Since the launch of RDA 2.5 years ago, the initiative has received an impressive USD 6 billion, making it easier for overseas Pakistanis to contribute to the growth and development of their home country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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