Lending A Helping Hand

 

The organisation stepped up in the hour of need, providing relief in the aftermath of the devastating floods

By Huda Hamid and Maha Aamir

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Published: Thu 23 Mar 2023, 11:26 AM

Pakistan contributes less than one per cent to global carbon emissions; however, it is among the top 10 climate-vulnerable countries in the world. In 2022, a severe heatwave caused the mountain glaciers to melt, which, combined with heavy monsoon rains, resulted in the biggest humanitarian crisis the country had seen in a decade. The monsoon season of 2022 brought with it devastating floods in Pakistan that swept away the homes, livestock, and livelihoods of millions of people, submerging 30 per cent of the country under water. The UN estimated that over 33 million people were affected, with more than 2,100 lives lost and around 12,000 injured. Pakistan also faced massive economic losses equated to over $30 billion.

With over a third of the country underwater, and roads rendered inaccessible, the flood affectees found themselves stranded without access to necessities, including food, water, sanitation, and healthcare facilities. The impact of the flood was the worst on vulnerable communities that already had limited resources available. To help people cope with the loss, many organisations stepped up to provide aid in food and shelter.


Amidst the devastation arose a healthcare crisis of epic proportions. Pakistan’s already weak healthcare infrastructure was now strained beyond capacity. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 1,500 health facilities were destroyed or damaged, causing an overall shift in the supply of proper healthcare services. Vulnerable segments of society, including pregnant women, children, old citizens, and people with pre-existing health conditions, could no longer access healthcare. A new wave of water-borne and vector-borne diseases arose in the area, which posed a higher threat to the affectees. The destruction of crops and displacement of livestock put 3.4 million children at risk of malnutrition.

Indus Hospital and Health Network (IHHN) sprung into immediate action and rolled out a nationwide emergency flood relief response with its flood relief medical team to provide urgent primary-level healthcare services to areas hit worst by the flood. Woven throughout IHHN’s priorities is the onus to establish its presence and maintain continuity of accessible care in areas with demonstrable service delivery gaps in healthcare. Having dealt with a nationwide health crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic, IHHN is known for being at the forefront during national-level crises and international health emergencies.


IHHN was established in 2007 to address the healthcare gap within Pakistan by providing inclusive and cutting-edge healthcare nationwide. It has shared this responsibility with numerous local and international stakeholders to address the growing demands of a rapidly increasing population, crumbling public health infrastructure, and a country susceptible to healthcare and climate crises. IHHN aims to provide healthcare completely free of cost to the marginalised communities of Pakistan, irrespective of their ability to pay for the treatment. Starting with a 150 bed-hospital, IHHN has evolved into a diverse network of 15 hospitals, four physical rehabilitation centres, four regional blood centres, container-based community health centres, boat clinics, and various public health initiatives spread across Pakistan. Through this diverse network of healthcare facilities, IHHN benefits more than six million patients in Pakistan every year.

During the most recent flood crisis, IHHN set up emergency medical relief camps across 35 districts in Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, and KPK. These camps were equipped with diagnostic equipment, primary care clinics, point-of-care testing, community engagement programmes, and mental health counseling sessions for the flood affectees. The main component of the emergency medical relief camps were the mobile medical buses, mobile diagnostic vans, maternal and child health units, and lab testing counters. To date, more than 575,000 flood affectees have benefited from over 2,500 medical and malaria relief camps, with over 419,900 instances of diseases treated. The most common diseases treated included diarrhea, gastroenteritis, acute respiratory infections, malaria, skin infections, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

The high malaria burden in the flood-affected areas of Pakistan led IHHN to set up separate malaria camps to combat the rise of the disease. Specialised maternal, neonatal and child health units were also set up, which provided women and their babies with prenatal and postnatal care. Apart from this, the camps also consisted of mental health units where over 12,400 participants received counseling sessions to cope with trauma and loss incurred by the catastrophic floods. Community engagement sessions were also administered to over 111,500 participants to educate them about fundamental health issues, specifically related to water-borne and vector-borne diseases.

IHHN is a nationally recognised philanthropic healthcare entity and has the necessary recognition and flexibility to work in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan for grassroots humanitarian projects. During its existence, IHHN has had multiple collaborative project engagements with the Government of Pakistan on both federal and provincial levels to help curb the ongoing healthcare crisis in Pakistan. During the flood relief efforts, IHHN not only collaborated with the Government of Pakistan but with numerous public and international organisations, including the World Health Organisation, The Global Fund, Human Appeal, and UNICEF, to expand its relief efforts in inaccessible areas.

While the floods may have receded, the damages they have incurred still remain. Millions of people are still deprived of quality medical services, and Indus Hospital and Health Network is continually working on expanding its efforts to provide quality medical care, absolutely free of cost, to those who have lost everything.


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