AROUND the globe, Pakistan’s effort to control corona pandemic are being acknowledged. Various leaders are praising its quick and efficient response. Many countries are trying to draw lessons from Pakistan’s effective policies and strategies to detect, prevent and respond to COVID-19 situation. The Director-General of WHO appreciated Pakistan’s preparedness and response efforts and also the strategy of deploying the Polio teams which proved instrumental in the battle against the deadly Corona.
The Government of Pakistan’s persistent efforts for prevention and control of COVID-19 deserved praise as it worked day and night to control this mighty virus. But it is important to mention here that robust response of the government would have not been possible without the critical support of WHO and other partners as they stood at the forefront with the government and local authorities to build up immediate and rapid response mechanism. Many international organizations supported the government in these dire times but WHO played a critical role. It provided timely and invaluable assistance to the Pakistani Government to chalk out the strategic preparedness and response plan to stop the viral crisis which halted life everywhere unequivocally. The WHO assisted the Government in various areas such as coordination and planning, case management, Corona surveillance, laboratory, community mobilization and sensitization to curtail the spread of the virus. Pronto, after its emergence in China, WHO initiated multi-sectoral, multi-partner coordination mechanisms, conducted an initial capacity assessment and risk analysis and established metrics, monitoring and evaluation systems to support response activities at the national and provincial levels.
It engaged with local donors and existing programmes to mobilize and allocate resources to implement a Pakistan-specific operational plan. It implemented a risk-communication and community engagement plan for COVID-19. The proactive leadership of WHO lent its support to policymakers, local authorities and other organizations at every tier to control the spread of deadly Coronavirus. WHO has supported Government’s response in almost every area but it played a laudable role in two major areas; one is assistance in reforming and developing of new national guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control and the other is Risk Communication. To underpin infection prevention and control systems in Pakistan, WHO has provided technical, financial and human support as well as has conducted assessments and built capacity of healthcare workers.
Understanding that Risk Communication was of paramount importance, WHO implemented risk-communication and community engagement (RCCE) plan for COVID-19 which included details of anticipated public health measures. WHO spearheaded regular rapid behaviour assessment to control small but deadly Coronavirus. The WHO prepared local messages and pre-test through a participatory process, specifically targeting key stakeholders and at-risk groups to ensure all engagement is culturally appropriate and empathetic.
WHO identified trusted community groups such as community leaders, religious leaders, health workers, community volunteers and local networks to spread the awareness and risk factor associated with Corona. WHO convened virtual meetings with Heads of Islamic Advisory Group and National Islamic Advisory Group for high-level advocacy and discussed public health measures during Eids, burial guidelines and share evidence-based information with them. WHO held virtual meetings with Heads of Medical Associations and Regulatory Bodies for high-level advocacy to discuss the strategy to control “Infodemic” and to put an end to COVID-19 horrors.
WHO engaged with influencers to share testimonials on key topics through communication channels and media for the public. To address the myths and misconceptions about the daunted pandemic, WHO developed supporting material like handouts, posters and brochures and disseminated throughout the country. WHO endeavours are praiseworthy to stop a mass killer virus in Pakistan. Certainly, WHO support helped the Government to articulate confidence and project strength in the face of the uncertainty posed by the pandemic.
—The writer is Islamabad-based educationist providing consultation to different education systems in the country.