Healthcare System in Pakistan: Accessibility to the Underprivileged

In first-world countries, healthcare systems are mostly backed by insurance and facilities that greatly ease the financial load off the patient’s backs. But healthcare in third-world countries, especially in countries like Pakistan, is a lot different.

The system itself is complex, but what affects the accessibility is the financial aspect. For example, in Canada, the average bill for a visit to the doctor is about $54 (11,400 PKR). The average cost of basic health checkups is only about $4.26 (900 PKR) in Pakistan.

You must be thinking: if medical care in Pakistan is that cheap, then everyone must have access to it!

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Let us explain why.

The Problems, the Causes, and Everything in Between:

In Pakistan, there are about 1.12 physicians per 1000 people. But this statistic is not evenly spread throughout the country— most rural areas have no medical facilities or qualified professionals at all.

For example, in Thar, there’s just one hospital in the whole district, and the doctors aren’t half as qualified as the ones in developed areas like Islamabad.

But, let’s suppose a person does have the financial resources to cover the travel expense, they might still be able to go to the doctor’s when they need to, right? Maybe a patient from Thar can travel to Karachi to visit a doctor? Sadly, no.

50% of Pakistan’s population does not have access to healthcare facilities at all, and that has a lot to do with the lack of financial resources.

See, Pakistan is a lower-middle-income country. The average household income is just 187.5 CAD (40,000 PKR) per month, and 37.2% of the population lives in severe poverty.

If a person earns just 40,000 PKR per month and has a family size of about 6 people, how is he supposed to afford healthcare? If we look at the consumption,

-> groceries cost around 10,000 PKR,
-> rents and utilities cost 20,000 PKR,
-> and other miscellaneous expenses like education and childcare consume the remaining 10,000 PKR.

That means there’s simply no room for savings or medical expenses. And to top all of this, daily wage workers, who make up a huge chunk of the nation’s population, earn way less than 187.5 CAD and have even bigger families!

So, while the cost of medical care in Pakistan may look cheap to expats and foreigners, it is very expensive for the vast majority of the locals.

Apart from financial barriers, transportation issues, shortage of healthcare providers, and poor quality of services in rural districts, there is also an educational barrier. Most people living in poverty have little to no knowledge about medical care, and they end up not knowing when, where, how, or why they must seek primary healthcare.

So, How Does the Lack of Access to Healthcare in Pakistan Affect the Lives of the Less Privileged?

Due to accessibility issues, millions of people in the country are deprived of medical aid when they need it the most.

For example, every year, Pakistan sees a surge in dengue virus cases– with 41,746 confirmed cases in 2023 alone. And every year, hundreds of less privileged people who get infected by the virus die due to lack of medical care.

But, this pattern intensifies in other life-threatening diseases like Cancer. 0.18 million people are diagnosed with Cancer every year, and 0.11 million people do not survive even when Pakistan has 49 cancer treatment facilities and some really good ones like Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.

Why is the fatality rate so high? Because a majority of people who live in poverty and are diagnosed with Cancer can’t afford treatment.

Think about it. If most families earn 480,000 PKR per annum, how can they afford a treatment that costs 1,400,000 PKR?

The same scenario applies to patients of other diseases like Thalassemia, too.

In Pakistan, 5 out of every 100 people are affected by the disorder. The majority of the patients are children because as they cannot receive treatment, they lose their battle with Thalassemia (and life) at only 10 years of age. This is an especially tragic statistic when you know that the average life expectancy of Thalassemia patients is 80 years if they receive proper treatment.

At the end of the day, as an alternative to proper medical aid, many underprivileged Pakistanis resort to home remedies to relieve the pain and hope that by some miracle their ailment will go away. In reality, it’s just a way to “ease the pain” until their bodies give up the fight completely.

Other times, they turn to a charity or non-profit organization for help— if they know of any.

“And whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity.”

— Al-Quran 5:32

Our projects have taken us to the most underdeveloped communities of Pakistan. The EPB team witnessed firsthand the gut-wrenching cases of people needing severe medical aid but not being able to reach out to any hospital or professional.

And when we saw this, we knew we had to help make the healthcare system in Pakistan more accessible to these people in need.

We set up medical camps and collaborated with doctors and hospitals to treat these patients, and with the help of our generous donors, we were able to do it regularly and save hundreds of lives.

Our medical camp initiatives helped us diagnose and treat short-term ailments like head injuries, dermatitis, etc.

But, with cases that required long-term treatment, we needed more than just one camp. So we started verifying more and more cases and raising more and more funds via our crowdfunding platform, GiveCase.

One of the thousands of cases that our platform is helping support is of Moula Bux, an 8-year-old child who has been suffering from severe eye infection for years now. His parents could not afford a doctor’s visit. The young boy probably does not remember a life with a clear vision and without pain in his eyes. We have taken up his case and took him to a doctor. He needs consistent treatment which should help him get better very soon. You can donate to help Moula Bux here.

If you would like to contribute further to our medical support campaign to improve access to healthcare in Pakistan and save lives, you can always head over to www.givecase.com!

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