For thousands of communities, gaining access to adequate healthcare in Pakistan is challenging. Since 1996, Doctors of the World has been active in Pakistan with the aim of reinforcing the country’s health infrastructure and providing healthcare to marginalized communities. We work across the country in regions such as Punjab, where we run sexual and reproductive health programs, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – where around 1 million people displaced by violence and natural disaster currently reside.
When a family has to flee their home, their access to healthcare services is inevitably severed. In the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) region in northern Pakistan, families displaced by conflict and natural disasters are commonplace, and it is estimated that only 30% of women and children have access to health care. Many have fled violent clashes between militant groups and the government in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Natural disasters such as heavy monsoon rains and periodic earthquakes have also caused communities to flee their homes. Since 2010, over 14 million people in Pakistan have been displaced due to a natural disaster. In response to the large number of IDPs (internally displaced persons) in KP, Doctors of the World has partnered with the Ministry of Health to support seven health centers since 2009 to increase access to care in the region.
For Pakistani women in KP, labour can often be a dangerous process. Many die during childbirth due to eclampsia, haemorrhages or infection. In response, we assist in strengthening women’s sexual and reproductive health by providing them with access to antenatal care, postnatal care, and family planning.
An important part of our work in KP also consists of training local healthcare staff. We’ve successfully trained 325 local staff members, which means that some of these centers can now be managed directly by Pakistan’s Ministry of Health. Our teams have also taken part in organizing health education workshops that deal specifically with vaccinating children and emergency planning for natural disasters.
In the region of Punjab in the east of the country, cultural and religious traditions prohibit young girls from accessing family planning. A quarter of the population in Punjab is between the ages of 9 and 19, and child marriage is common. It is estimated that 17% of women in Punjab are married before the age of 17. The young age at which many girls are married also increases instances of unwanted pregnancies.
In Punjab, Doctors of the World aims to improve the quality of, and strengthen access to, family planning services. In addition to sexual and reproductive health, domestic violence is also a prevalent issue which greatly affects women and girls in the region. In response, our teams also support shelters known as “Dar Al-Amans” for women and girls fleeing abusive relationships. In both regions of Pakistan, our teams provide valuable access to healthcare for communities who have been forgotten or discriminated against by the mainstream health infrastructure. To learn more about our work in Pakistan and elsewhere in the region, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.