Pakistan is leading the way with its welfare state – the world can learn from its innovation:The Telegraph
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Ehsaas initiative is one of the most comprehensive welfare programmes ever undertaken by a national government
Article Courtey- The Telegraph
More than 50 years ago countries as far apart as Indonesia, Tanzania and Guatemala began to train local people as community health workers who can provide some treatments themselves and, as importantly, help their neighbours and communities prevent disease.
The idea took off and spread through low- and middle-income countries with Pakistan, for example, establishing a programme of Lady Health Workers. Health improvement starts in the community and if you tackle challenges at the source, whether it be health, education or skills training, it will have major health and economic benefits later. The community health worker model has been so successful that many years later it was picked up in high-income countries with New York, for example, now having a well-established network.
This community-based approach allows health, education and other social issues to be tackled together in a holistic fashion. Girls and boys who are healthy, for example, are more likely to get a good education and go on to be productive members of society and live healthy lives. The strongest systems work across sectors, breaking through barriers to drive programmes and solutions that touch on health, education, economic livelihoods and beyond.
This is why we should all be looking with particular interest at the work underway in Pakistan to build a sustainable welfare state. Called Ehsaas, which in Urdu literally means ‘empathy’, the new initiative is one of the most comprehensive welfare programmes ever undertaken by a national government, with an underlying ambition to create a social safety net for Pakistan that could transform the lives of millions. It is enormously wide-ranging and ambitious.
Despite some progress since the turn of the millennium, a quarter of people in Pakistan still live in poverty, with rates of rural poverty more than double those in urban areas. With one of the fastest growing populations in the world, Pakistan will have to create a million new jobs each year just to keep up with the number of young people entering the job market. Educational attainment is some of the worst in the region and health indicators are not promising, demonstrated by the fact that Pakistan is one of only two countries where the wild poliovirus remains endemic.
This is the context in which Ehsaas is seeking to end the cycle of poverty faced by many Pakistanis. Acknowledging that no single area will unlock this ambition alone, Ehsaas encompasses 134 policies that range from tackling corruption to creating educational opportunities to providing the elderly with decent homes.
The programme is led by Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, who has been mandated by Prime Minister Imran Khan to work in partnership across multiple federal ministries that these policies will be driven by, as well with provincial governments who have devolved powers including on education and health. Without a multisectoral approach, it would not be possible to create the welfare state envisioned by Ehsaas.
The launch of a countrywide public consultation was particularly important as it was the first time a public policy in Pakistan had been developed in this way and demonstrates a new level of openness and transparency. Ehsaas’s impact will hopefully go much further than the borders of Pakistan. It will provide many lessons for low-, middle- and high-income countries.