Observer Research Foundation Mumbai

Ideas and Action for a Better India

Newsletter – Healthcare and Urban Poor: A View From Pakistan

Second in a six-part series, entitled “The Future of the Urban Poor”
A talk by

By Dr Asher Hasan

(Founder and CEO, Naya Jeevan, Karachi)

Dr Asher Hasan, Founder and CEO, Naya Jeevan, Karachi

The Observer Research Foundation Mumbai (ORF) and Intellecap jointly organised their
second event in the six-part Speaker Series titled ‘The Future of the Urban Poor’ on
Wednesday, 24th August 2011. The guest speaker on the occasion was Dr. Asher Hasan,
founder and CEO of the Karachi-based Naya Jeevan, a not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to providing low-income families throughout the emerging world with affordable access to quality healthcare. He was joined in conversation with Ms. Rupa Subramanya, an economist and columnist who participated as a panelist at this event.
This speaker series looks at equitable and sustainable development of cities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – a region that is home to nearly 25% of the world population, comprises 3 % of its land area and significantly, 45% of the world’s poor.

A View from Pakistan

Before going on to present his unique ‘Robin Hood’ model for ensuring good healthcare privileges accessible for the urban poor, Dr. Hasan introduced the healthcare quagmire of Pakistan to the audience through his experience in establishing and running Naya Jeevan. Drawing up stark similarities between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, he mentioned the following facts:

  • Public expenditure on healthcare in Pakistan is less than 3% of total expenditure.
  • More than 70% of basic health units are without doctors or nurses.
  • More than 50% of rural health centres suffer the same fate.
  • The private sector caters for 70% of Pakistan’s population or 40 million low-income
  • households and 99.3% of this population are not covered by health insurance.
  • Like in India, medical calamities can lead to generational poverty and debt among millions of poor people in Pakistan.

Pakistan has witnessed rapid urbanisation and currently 38% of the population of lives in urban areas. Its cities are experiencing increasing influx of economic migrants who come from rural areas in search of jobs. Even within the urban setup, there is vast inequality in healthcare accessibility between the non-poor and poor. “The urban poor, starved for resources are even worse off than their rural counterparts,” Dr. Hasan said, terming this disparity between the haves and the have-nots
as socio-economic “apartheid”. He attributed this phenomenon to the lack of social conscience of the affluent and privileged people who live in cities, which he said, “resonates in the juxtaposition of slums and the affluent, glistening, glass buildings and residential bungalows in cities like Mumbai and Karachi”.
He recounted the plight of the Swat Valley refugees at refugee camps in Peshawar, “who suffer greatly due to poor drinking water and sanitation facilities which have resulted in large scale outbreak of infectious diseases” and compared them with living conditions present in the shantytowns / urban slums in the mangrove swamps of Karachi. These slums, he said, are “illegally occupied” by 700,000 people living in conditions of abject poverty. Since these are unauthorised dwellings, the government does not provide them with even the most basic healthcare services, an unfortunate reality in common to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh… (more)

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This entry was posted on 09/10/2011 by in ORF Mumbai.
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