Asifa has three young boys and lives with her husband and father in law in Korangi. Her husband used to work in a factory, but has been laid off as he was taking too many holidays due to illness. Today Asifa supports her family by stitching clothes. Her children used to go to school when her husband worked, but they can no longer attend as most of the income is spent on transporting her husband to the nearest government hospital for weekly treatment.
The plight of Asifa is not an uncommon one and many others in low income communities suffer the same struggles in their households due to the high disease burden. One reason for this drain on household resources is that families can not afford proper treatment at the right time. Many underdeveloped areas of Karachi have grown organically to hold dense populations, and these communities are home to migrants from all over Pakistan who are reliant on daily wages to support multigenerational households. While such communities have grown exponentially, the basic facilities available to these communities have lagged behind, leaving many with minimal access to healthcare.
Consequently, when a person is severely ill, he or she will then go to the nearest government hospital for treatment, a cost that could have been avoided had there been earlier diagnosis and treatment. The World Health Organization data supports this idea that primary health care facilities in communities reduces total healthcare costs and improves efficiency by reducing hospital admissions.
Neighborhood access to healthcare facilities can enable timely treatment of disease. SINA Health Education and Welfare Trust, is a not-for-profit organization that has focused on developing primary-care clinics in these impoverished communities. These clinics have trained doctors and nursing staff who provide free diagnosis, medicines and treatment to the local population. Their workflows and protocols have been established on the primary healthcare models followed in developed countries with more robust healthcare systems.
The doctors at SINA are supported by state-of-the-art digital health system, which ensures that each doctor follows a strict protocol backed by a quality assurance system. This enables each patient to receive the quality of treatment required. SINA has established 30 clinics in locations where more than 80% of the communities are eligible for Zakat and is now treating more than 800,000 people annually. The World Bank identifies that access to health services is an important prerequisite for improving Pakistan’s ‘human capital’, and can play an important part for the poor to break out of the vicious circle of poverty.