Saturday, May 29, 2021

Asim Murtaza nominated for COVID-19 Hero Awards

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
In recognition of his services, Asim Murtaza Khan, President, Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan, has been nominated for the COVID-19 Hero Awards, instituted by Rotary International’s Zone 1-B. 

Past District Governors of Rotary International, Jahangir Moghul (Pakistan) and Sam Showket Hossain (Bangladesh), sharing top slots in the Zonal Public Image committee, had set May 29 as the deadline for submission of the awards. 

Asim Murtaza Khan, one of the most respected names in the oil and gas industry of Pakistan, has been nominated for the award for having led the club proactively throughout the ongoing tenure and his focus on generating activities on a regular basis to assist the victims of COVID-19 has earned goodwill for the club as well as Rotary. 

Rotary Club of Karachi Darakshan has been in the forefront in carrying out activities to alleviate pains of its victims besides creating awareness to curtail spreading of this deadly disease. 

They had organized a seminar on the subject of COVID-19’s impact on libraries with collaboration of Library Promotion Bureau last September while in the following months the club continued holding ration distribution events in the affected areas of COVID-19, strictly following the SOPs. When the second and third waves of the pandemic rocked Pakistan and outside movement was restricted, the club decided to reach out the COVID-19 victims at their doorstep.

Shoaib Siddiqui to be keynote speaker in Rotary webinar

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications, will be the keynote speaker in the webinar on the subject of positive youth development, being organized by Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan on May 30. 

According to details, the webinar, commemorating Rotary International’s month of youth, will be held via zoom from 1700 to 1800 hours Pakistan Standard Time and it’s expected to be attended by a large number of Rotarians and Rotractors all over the country. 

The other speakers in the webinar will be Omar Shamim Zafar, Chief Executive, Shamim Zafar & Associates, Jahangir Moghul, Assistant Rotary Public Image Coordinator, Rotary International Zone 1-B, Prof Dr Farhan Essa, Governor, Rotary International District 3271, Asim Murtaza Khan, President, Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan, Syed Khalid Mahmood, President-Elect, Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan, and Iqra Sajjad, District Rotract Representative, Rotary International District 3271.

Railways retrieve land in successful operation

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Railways authorities, following a midnight land retrieval operation carried out at Auto Bhan Road in Hyderabad, successfully retrieved land measuring 2.88 kanals or 15,500 square feet where a petrol pump had been built illegally without taking any permission or entering into an official agreement with the department. 

According to details, the action was a part of Karachi Division's ‘Operation Lands Retrieval’ aimed at retrieving a total of 11 pieces of land in Karachi division where illegal petrol pumps had been constructed. 

Eight of the eleven stated pieces of land are in Hyderabad and two out of them have been retrieved during the past three days. The operation was conducted by railways' police under the supervision of deputy director property and lands and necessary retrieval certificate signed by police, land and engineering officials have been issued accordingly. 

Federal Minister for Railways, Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, has felicitated the Karachi Division for successfully carrying out another anti-encroachment operation within three days and urged for retrieving each and every inch of PR's illegally occupied land. 

Divisional Superintendent Karachi Railways, Muhammad Hanif Gul, also stressed his team for early conclusion of Operation Land Retrieval as he simply commented "two down and nine to go" on his official Facebook page.

Monday, May 17, 2021

UK lifts restrictions for 12 countries

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The United Kingdom (UK), at 4 am on May 17, lifted restrictions on the green list countries and territories as the travellers from the listed 12 countries will not have to isolate upon arrival. They have started implementing a traffic light ranking system for resuming international travel. 

Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira), Singapore, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha constitute the green list. 

The persons returning to England from the above countries still must take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours before departing and a PCR test on or before their second day in England which may be booked in the same way as now though private test providers. They will not need to quarantine unless they receive a positive test result. 

Leisure and non-essential business travel to and from the amber and red listed countries will remain to be barred and a mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine will be in place for those permitted to enter England from red countries. Mandatory home quarantine and strict testing requirements will also remain in place for those entering England from the amber listed countries. 

The UK officials have planned to introduce a green watchlist of countries that were at risk of moving from green to amber to allow passengers more predictability about which protocol they could be subjected to upon returning. The traffic light lists are set to be reviewed and updated every three weeks.

Seminar highlights acute shortage of nurses

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Pakistan’s nurses and midwives are playing a vital role on the frontlines of the COVID-19 third wave despite the ongoing shortage of healthcare professionals in the country, policymakers and academics reckoned at a seminar at the Aga Khan University (AKU), Karachi, held to celebrate the International Day of Nurses and Midwives. 

The AKU is a pioneering institution of higher education that works to improve quality of life in the developing world and beyond. The University operates programmes in campuses in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the United Kingdom, and treats more than two million patients per year at seven hospitals and more than 350 medical centres. 

While recognizing how nurses have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve the public during the pandemic, the Sindh Chief Minister, Murad Ali Shah, the chief guest at the event, noted that demand for nurses worldwide was increasing which was creating incentives for nurses in Pakistan to move abroad.

“We are mindful of the fact that due to the global shortage of nurses, the demand worldwide has increased which is giving our nurses the opportunity to migrate to high-income countries to improve their quality of life. This is definitely something we don’t want to happen as in Pakistan there was already a shortage of 1.3 million nurses before the pandemic,” he declared. 

“Pakistan has one of the greatest shortages of trained high-quality nurses. No healthcare system can deliver quality care without the input of trained, committed professionals in the nursing field,” Dr Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the prime minister on health, stated. 

He added that the government’s national health taskforce was working to expand the education and training of nurses to ensure that the country’s nursing workforce continues to grow. 

In a recorded message, Sindh health minister Dr Azra Pechuho remarked that one of the reasons behind Pakistan’s shortage of nurses is that too few women were seeking admission to the profession.

The speakers at the event also recognized that limited career pathways for nurses, inadequate compensation and respect, and unsafe work environments were some of the factors behind people leaving the profession or choosing to practice abroad, adding that Pakistan was one of the five countries facing the largest deficits of nurses with the World Health Organization (WHO) also calling on the country to take steps to double its nursing workforce. 

“Nurses have grown used to double shifts, no days offs and living at hospitals during the pandemic to keep the public safe. They are also working at vaccination centres, hosting capacity building drives for their colleagues, volunteering at field isolation centres, as well as managing tele-clinics, hotlines and home-health initiatives. Despite being stretched, they are striving to do their best,” AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery Dean, Professor Rozina Karmaliani, revealed. 

Commenting on the steps needed to retain and encourage nurses to stay in the workforce, experts highlighted the need to promote Advanced Practice Nursing, APN, qualifications that enhance the skills of nurses and enable them to widen their scope of practice. This would involve the granting of licenses to nurses and midwives with specialist qualifications enabling them to run their own clinics. 

“Empowering nurses and midwives to take the lead in patient care would expand the availability of affordable care. It would also boost timely access to treatment that would prevent the onset of complications which place a significant burden on tertiary care hospitals,” Professor Rafat Jan, associate dean at AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, stressed.

While panelists at the seminar appreciated the federal government for setting up a taskforce on nursing announcing measures to establish a new nursing university and to invest in expanding the nursing sector, they added many other initiatives were needed to promote the education of nurses. 

They highlighted the need to convert nursing schools into colleges and to encourage faculty development initiatives so that academic institutions would have enough teachers. 

They also called on the government to invest in online learning to improve access to learning during the pandemic so that graduates could complete their education on time and join the workforce immediately. In addition to online teaching and the use of digital platforms, introducing innovations in simulation can also help produce the best nursing graduates for the market, speakers added. 

“Nurses have left no stone unturned to support the healthcare system. I salute their persistence, dedication and hard work which they have exhibited especially in the ongoing battle against COVID-19,” Khairunisa Khan, deputy director of nursing in Sindh, complimented. 

The speakers at the event also appreciated the achievement of milestones by their colleagues during the year such as Pakistan awarding its first nursing doctorate, and 8 nurses from the country being named among the world’s 100 outstanding nurses. Other speakers at the event included Aga Khan University Hospital, AKUH, CEO Dr Shahid Shafi, AKUH Chief Nursing Officer Salma Jaffer and AKU Medical College Dean Dr Adil Haider.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Railways freight service indicators reveal upsurge

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Much in line with the envisaged doubling of freight revenue by incumbent federal minister of Railways, the different freight-related parameters have shown upsurge during the last three months (February to April) this year. 

Multiple indicators have climbed to unmatched levels thereby ensuing significant increase in freight business of the department. Pakistan Railways concluded a record loading of containers in February 2021 as it loaded an unprecedented number of 4,532 containers for up country transhipment at its different terminals in Karachi. 

The federal minister for Railways, Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, it may be recalled, had twice visited all the container loading terminals in the port city and directed for their upgradation to the state-of-the-art level so that they could not only give an outlook of business hubs but generate significant chunk of revenue also. 

The month of March was a historic one for Pakistan Railways as its freight earnings climaxed to all-time highest figure of Rs. 2.221 billion surpassing the previous highest of Rs. 2.1 billion in October 2019. The department had also loaded maximum number of wagons 21,766 crossing the previous maximum of 21,470 achieved in October 2019.

The Yousufwala-destined freight trains are the hallmark of Pakistan Railways' coal-laden trains as almost 4 trains per day, each comprising 40 wagons, are dispatched to Yousufwala cumulatively carrying 9,600 tonnes of coal. 

The department attained the highest per day loading figure of 392 wagons in March and operated 138 trains in entire month that stood second to that of relevant statistics in July 2018. The overall loaded 11,044 wagons for Yousufwala trains lagged behind only to that of 12,000-mark attained in July 2018. 

The Railways minister had directed rehabilitation of all the out-of-service wagons standing in the yards, at the earliest, so that maximum rolling stock could be utilized. He had also advised the concerned officers for preparing a comprehensive business plan that must entail an increase in number of freight trains and fiscal targets. 

The magical figure of loading 20,000 wagons in a month is an unusual feat as Pakistan Railways has achieved this milestone only twice, in October 2019 and March 2021. The department has replicated that number in April also by loading 20,385 wagons at an average of 680 per day. The minister had sternly directed that loading of fewer than 20,000 wagons in a month was unacceptable and all efforts be made to cross that figure.

Mental health services in homes across Badin planned

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Lady health workers in Badin will provide mental health services at the doorstep of communities as part of a pilot study launched by researchers from the Aga Khan University (AKU). Badin has the second-highest suicide rate in the province, according to a 2021 report by the Sindh Mental Health Authority. 

Access to mental healthcare is a major challenge for people in rural parts of the district and treatment is often avoided due to the stigma attached. Mental health practitioners are not available locally and accessing care from much-needed psychiatrists and psychologists requires travel to hospitals in mega cities like Hyderabad and Karachi.

The first phase of the study will involve cases of anxiety and depression being identified through a survey of households in Badin. The lady workers and supervisors will subsequently receive training in community mental health modules under the World Health Organization’s Mental Health Gap intervention guide which has been specifically designed for use in non-specialized health settings.

“This study will provide an innovative technological solution to provide community based mental health services through frontline healthcare workers. Very few studies have described the burden of mental health problems in Pakistan. This will be a pioneering study to establish estimates of anxiety and depression at the population level in a rural setting,” Professor Fauziah Rabbani, the project’s principal investigator, revealed.

“Even though Pakistan is facing a rising burden of non-communicable diseases, mental health continues to be a neglected and overlooked area. Our study seeks to integrate mental health services into essential primary healthcare packages and will generate evidence on whether frontline healthcare workers can effectively improve the mental health of vulnerable communities,” it was added. 

Following the intervention, researchers will evaluate changes in participants’ depression and anxiety scores, and assess changes in the knowledge and skills of health workers in treating mental health issues. A series of interviews and focus groups with stakeholders across the system will also be held to identify factors that can facilitate or hinder the potential scale-up of the intervention to other provinces. 

The study, which has been endorsed by the Sindh government, is being conducted by faculty at Aga Khan University’s department of community health sciences in collaboration with the University’s Brain and Mind Institute. Its objectives are in line with targets under goal 3 of the sustainable development goals, Good Health and Wellbeing, which call for special efforts to promote mental health and wellbeing. 

The project builds on the successes of the AKU’s WHO funded NIGRAAN and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-sponsored Umeed-e-Nau NIGRAAN Plus projects in Badin and Mirpurkhas respectively which improved the ability of lady health workers to diagnose and treat cases of pneumonia and diarrhoea, and enhanced the supervisory skills of lady health supervisers.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Rotary Darakhshan distribute ration bags

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan (RCKD), living up to its reputation of organizing welfare activities for the community, distributed ration among needy and deserving people with the onset of the holy month of Ramazan. 

 This time, however, they followed a different practice of reaching out the people at their doorsteps instead of holding a distribution ceremony, unlike the previous years, because of the COVID-19 situation.

“As inviting people for a gathering seemed laden with dangers of spreading the virus, we deemed it proper to have the ration bags, containing items of daily use, delivered at the houses of the deserving persons,” Jahangir Moghul, the club’s Charter President and a past District Governor, informed. 

“Our club, since its establishment in 2004, has the tradition of distributing ration bags among many families on the eve of Ramazan. This year, however, we have adopted a different strategy to reach the people in view of the prevailing conditions,” he added. 

Engr Asim Murtaza Khan, President, RCKD, has been leading the club by example and there have been flurry of activities throughout the current Rotary year of 2020-21 despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.