Strengthening Workforce Capacity Saves Lives in Pakistan

August 7th, 2023 | story


The outbreak investigation team visits an outbreak spot in Arhenji, Balochistan. Photo: Dr. Farmanullah, Khuzdar Department of Health

In March 2023, Dr. Nida, a surveillance officer at the Balochistan Provincial Disease Surveillance and Response Unit (PDSRU), learned of three unexpected deaths in a village in the province. Suspecting a cholera outbreak, she and her colleagues took immediate action. Dr. Nida sent a team to collect stool and water samples from probable cases, households, and a nearby lake to assess for contamination. The team confirmed the cholera outbreak and determined that it was linked to a lack of adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene. They spoke with local authorities and recommended water treatment, improved sanitation practices, and clinical management to keep the infection from spreading. Under the guidance of Dr. Nida, the PDSRU team’s rapid identification of and response to this outbreak allowed people to get timely treatment and saved lives in a remote and under-resourced village.

Dr. Nida is one of 69 doctors from Balochistan and Punjab Provinces who received financial support from the USAID Integrated Health Systems Strengthening and Service Delivery (IHSS-SD) Activity in July 2021 to pursue a master of science in public health (MSPH). As evidenced by Dr. Nida’s response to the cholera outbreak in Balochistan, the doctors’ newly acquired knowledge and skills allow them to provide essential functions, including more efficient emergency preparedness and response.

“As a female from a remote area of Balochistan, the experience of being an MSPH student has been life-changing. The program has equipped me with the skills to take on leadership and management roles within health systems. I have learned evaluation methods and tools to assess the effectiveness of public health initiatives, allowing for evidence-based decision-making and program improvement. Working with diverse faculty with international experience has allowed me to understand and explore solutions to global health challenges,” says Dr. Nida.

People walk the landscape in Pakistan
The outbreak investigation team visits an outbreak spot in Arhenji, Balochistan. Photo: Dr. Farmanullah, Khuzdar Department of Health

Supporting these doctors to pursue graduate degrees is just one way the IHSS-SD Activity has been helping to build a strong and resilient health care workforce in Pakistan. Since 2017, it has invested funds and resources alongside the Government of Pakistan to improve the country’s health surveillance system. This partnership’s work to reach the core capacities of the International Health Regulations and to meet global health security goals will continue through 2025.

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