Pakistan is a nation of more than 200 million people. One of the problems associated with this number is the lack of attention given by the government to public healthcare; specifically focusing on the issue of pediatric heart care.
According to BBC news, Pakistan has unfortunately one of the highest rates of children born with congenital heart defects in the world. Forty to fifty thousand children are born with these defects annually. A recent article by Harvard University dictates that the privatization of health care is to blame…there is more of a focus on commercial growth at the cost of people’s lives at stake.
Why are so many children born with these defects each year? The lack of proper care for mothers during their pregnancy period is to blame. Women are often not given proper vaccinations and this makes newborns more susceptible to these defects due to low immunity. What shocks me most is that there are only 8 pediatric heart surgeons in Pakistan. Civilians must be educated on the importance of public health, because only then can they put their talents to use in order to help those in need. This is clearly a dire situation where children suffer from fatal diseases if they are not treated.
What is even more problematic is the fact that a majority of civilians in Pakistan suffer from poverty and its debilitating hold. Many families are unable to pay for the heart surgeries, which cost about 3-4,000 dollars. To remedy the issue of costs, the government must expand free healthcare to villages and the cities of Pakistan. Government provisioning has to increase, but Pakistan’s GDP has only grown three percent during the last five to six years. Food and healthcare expenses are detrimental for the poor, as they cannot handle the increasing costs of health care.
Pakistan’s public healthcare system has a bleak future unless game changers like the youth of Pakistan act now and fight for change. If more charities and NGO’s become involved and help low income families by providing work services and funding in return for vocational jobs, this will simultaneously help to incentivize literacy and reduce the search for jobs. Waiting for surgeries often proves fatal, but if organizations like Pakistan’s Children’s Heart Foundation act to help poor families by funding surgeries through donors, this can reduce the burden on low-income families.
Farhan Ahmed, the founder of the initiative Pakistan’s Children’s Heart Foundation set out on a mission inspired by the death of his own daughter who suffered from complications after her heart surgery. He says only “3-4,000 children get the surgeries out of the 25,000 who need it” due to backlogging. He now runs the initiative and funds surgeries for low-income families. He is just one person who is already actively improving the accessibility of public health care to Pakistan’s population.
How can we make a difference as average citizens? In the past year I had the opportunity of working with Gift of Life International through my high school’s Interact Club. We created an initiative called “7 in 7” which promoted the idea of saving seven children from seven continents in seven days. The mission supported children with congenital heart defects with families unable to keep up with the costs of surgeries and treatment. The heart defects are commonly holes in the heart, which facilitate mixing of blood and oxygen from both sides of the heart. This can prove fatal for children as their breathing can become constricted, and they become tired easily. Gift of Life International helped save eight children’s lives, and countless lives around the world have been improved as a result. Gift of Life International provides funds for the post-op treatment, while doctors at the hospitals which operate on the children operate for free. Doctors learn how to operate in their own countries, which are commonly underprivileged nations like El Salvador, Philippines, and more.
It was truly eye opening to see the effects of the initiative on a global scale. The initiative saved a Syrian refugee child named Anas, Maya from Lebanon, a young girl from the Philippines, one from El Salvador, and countless others. If Gift of Life International spread its mission to Pakistan, I feel that this would have a monumental impact on these children suffering from heart defects, and also promote more access to pediatric care units, as more doctors would learn how to provide these simple heart surgeries.
I urge everyone to support Gift of Life International and its inspiring mission for global peace and building bridges. I urge international leaders to discuss improving the public health sector in Pakistan and provide much needed aid. Doctors need more of an incentive to work in these pediatric care units, as they are not paid enough, so we must focus on encouraging increased government funding for healthcare in general. Improving infrastructure in Pakistan is significant to addressing these problems, so I call on Pakistan’s government to address the poverty rates, lack of literacy in many impoverished areas, and the poor health care accessibility as a result of these growing issues.
I believe that we can all make a change in this world…we can all leave our mark whether it is big or small, or on a local or international level. It is our time, and we must make the most of it.