For over a decade now, Pakistan has witnessed its fair share of natural calamities and man-made distresses: floods, terrorism, poverty, inflation. In the unstable political environment, governance has taken a beating, gender discrimination is rampant and the heathcare system left so fragile that it cannot adequately address the needs of the population.
In an effort to build capacity to link governance, gender and disasters effectively, the Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University teamed up with the Netherlands-based Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam for a special course, “Addressing Governance, Gender and Disasters in a Fragile Health System”.
Funded by Nuffic, Netherlands, the course was conducted at the Stadium Road Campus in Karachi from September 16-27, 2013.
Ms Khadija Jamal Shaban, Chairperson of FOCUS Pakistan, was the guest of honour of the inaugural ceremony. Other guests included Dr Annemarie ter Veen, Senior Advisor and Team Leader, Health and Education, Development, Policy and Practice, KIT; Ms Selma Scheewe, Advisor Postgraduate Education (Global Health), Education Department, KIT; and Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi, National Professional Officer for Programme Development and Tuberculosis Control, WHO Pakistan, Islamabad.
The diverse vibrant participant pool included experienced senior and mid-level managers from the Ministries of Health, Population Welfare, and Planning and Development, non-governmental organizations, external development partners, AKDN and academia.
Over the course of the week, questions were raised and experiences shared on the roles governance and gender play in a health system. Also touched upon was the level of emergency preparedness in the country and the gender discrimination that surfaces in relief efforts.
Health is as much about the soul as it is about the body, and a set of cross cutting subjects like equity, ethics and human rights – basic values of humanity – were integrated in sessions and study materials.
Participants were provided an opportunity to assess a fragile health system to identify strengths, detect gaps, and suggest recommendations to cater health needs of people specifically during disasters.
The feedback at the end of the session was largely appreciative with participants particularly liking the interaction with experienced professionals from different fields.