Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan For COVID-19 Pandemic 2020
Immediate health impacts on people and systems
The Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan For COVID-19 Pandemic 2020 was finalized on 22 May 2020. The biggest humanitarian need is the protection of health workers to ensure they can combat the pandemic and continue to provide essential health care services. The closure of all hospitals and health facilities, except for emergency services, has hampered the continuation of immunizations, preventive health care, pre- and post-natal care and care for other co-morbidities.
Nutrition programmes have suffered due to the outbreak, leaving over 200,000 pregnant and lactating women and 400,000 children among the most vulnerable in need of regular nutrition support in drought affected areas.
Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world with 220 million people and the seventh most affected on the list of countries impacted by climate change. The most vulnerable populations expected to be disproportionally affected by the health and non-health impacts of COVID-19 total 6.65 million people which include Afghan refugees, IDPs and returnees, undocumented Afghans and people affected by natural disasters. The pre-existing vulnerabilities of such groups are further aggravated by related stressors, including family anxieties and the disruption of income generation due to physical distancing.
Indirect impacts on people and systems
Containment measures and movement restrictions are devastating the economy. Estimates indicates that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will drop by 4.64 per cent, followed by a subsequent increase in the number people living below the poverty from 50-60 million to 125 million.
A quarter of the population, some 53 million people, lives below the national poverty line and 84 million people are multi-dimensionally poor. An estimated 40-62 million people are persistently and chronically vulnerable to food insecurity while also being exposed to natural hazards. These populations are at risk of falling into increased food insecurity requiring a scaled-up response by humanitarian partners through both in-kind and cash modalities.
Women and children from the disadvantaged households, homebased workers, domestic workers, daily wage earners (small shops, self-employed persons and families) and especially pregnant women, are among the most impacted during this pandemic. All educational facilities will remain closed until at least the end of May 2020, resulting in major disruptions to learning.
Response priorities and challenges
Priorities and early achievements
Through COVID-19 National Action Plan, the Government is taking a two-pronged strategy: prioritizing efforts to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus and address the secondary humanitarian and socio-economic impacts, which is linked to the HCT’s integrated Humanitarian Response Plan to address the humanitarian impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable. The plan aims to target 5.6 million people through to the end of the year.
The UN health response has been aligned with the pillars of the WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. Examples of activities include:
Developed and shared information, education and communication material (IEC) material on physical distancing and orientation guidelines for frontline workers in local languages in all provinces.
Collaborating with the Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) to use thousands of polio health workers to maintain and strengthen routine immunization.
Advocating for specific quarantine arrangements and services for women and girls and inclusion of refugees in social protection programs.
Development of an Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) strategy that includes the training of over 10,000 health workers, provision of materials and other supplies and conducting IPC assessments at over 200 health facilities and quarantine sites.
Challenges and impact to operations
Nationally led health responses have suffered from several challenges: isolation and quarantine facilities are inadequate in number and they lack human resources, technical expertise, supplies and equipment.
The disease surveillance system is weak; e.g. the Severe Acute Respiratory Illness/ Influenza Like Illness (SARI/ILI) sentinel surveillance, which could be used in this pandemic, is not fully functional. Sexual and reproductive health service delivery is expected to be severely impacted, contributing to a rise in maternal and newborn mortality.
From a humanitarian standpoint, the COVID-19 response is taking place in the context of climate vulnerabilities and a refugee response: a series of climatic shocks combined to make those already facing social exclusion and vulnerability due to poverty and displacement, more acutely vulnerable to the virus and its impacts.