LAHORE: Public Services International (PSI) has announced the launch of Pakistan’s first online interactive documentary experience, providing critical insight into the lives of lady health workers (LHWs) who continue to stand on the frontlines of Pakistan against all infectious diseases, saving hundreds of lives, every single day.

The LHWs are part of a government programme that was developed in 1994 to provide basic healthcare 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.

Divided into a series of episodes, “Behind the Mask: Pakistan” is a key episode which focuses on the struggles faced by healthcare workers specifically in Pakistan, chronicling their challenges and the impact of Covid-19 on their lives.

The Pakistan episode of the documentary highlights the work of 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.

With “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.

Indeed, despite the critical frontline role of lady health workers in the fight against diseases such as polio, cholera, and Covid-19, they continue to face harassment, terrible working conditions, low pay, inflation and wage stagnation, lack of new hiring despite increased need, threats as polio workers, vaccines shortages and inequality, and a lack of recognition.

To this end the “Behind The Mask: Pakistan” episode focuses on key issues such as vaccine access, wages and hiring, the service structure, and ILO Convention 1901, which seeks to protect people from violence and harassment at work.

Since the documentary was filmed, the health risk allowance has been withdrawn for healthcare workers, despite being constantly at risk, treating patients with infectious diseases.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 healthcare sector, continue to build and the recent devastating flood has created additional health crisis.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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