Sunday, August 29, 2021

NLA honours Ahsan Rafiq

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The National Library Association (NLA) organized a reception in the honour of the California-based eminent scholar and orator, Ahsan Rafiq, in Karachi on August 29. The ceremony, attended by more than 25 representatives from different walks of life, was presided over by the NLA Advisor, Syed Khalid Mahmood.

In his welcome address, the NLA President, Muzaffar Ali Shah, paid glowing to Ahsan Rafiq for his meritorious services in motivating people with his inspirational speeches and lectures. 

“It’s our proud privilege to host such a great scholar this evening having proved his mettle as an orator and broadcaster for the last many years. He has come to Karachi, his home city, on a brief visit of just a couple of weeks and we are honoured with his presence between us,” the NLA President complimented. 

Living upto his big reputation, Ahsan Rafiq, the chief guest of the evening, delivered yet another wonderfully worded speech in which he described the legendary orator and leader, Moulana Mohammad Ali Jahuar, as his role model. 

“Having entered into debates from my school life, I established myself as a regular orator and broadcaster while pursuing my career as a pharmacist. I also taught English language at an institute in Federal-B-Area in evenings. Later I moved to California, USA, and took up the teaching assignment in public speaking after completing Masters in Business Administration (MBA) there,” he shared.

“I am also a motivational speaker. I derive huge satisfaction at being gold medalist in various speeches and debating competitions over the years. I have won more than 20 gold medals besides numerous trophies in my career. Winning debating contests at prestigious institutions are high points of my life,” he reckoned. 
Syed Khalid Mahmood, in his presidential address, while commending Ahsan Rafiq on his accomplishments, urged him to play his role in building library culture in Pakistan. 

“You certainly are an icon in the field of debating and you are gifted with the elusive quality of motivating people with your speeches and talks. Having lived in the United States for a long time and worked in the education sector you are well versed with the library system there. You are very kindly requested to take some interest in helping build the same kind of library culture in Pakistan,” the NLA Advisor stated. 

Ahsan Rafiq promptly agreed to join hands with the NLA in achieving mutual objective of development of library culture in Pakistan and he promised to sit down with the NLA officials for a brainstorming before returning to USA next month. 

The NLA Secretary, Anwar Hussain, presented the vote of thanks in which he expressed his gratitude to all the guests to have made it to the ceremony at a very short notice. The meeting was followed by a sumptuous dinner.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

ESUP launch 60th anniversary book

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP), headed by Aziz Memon, has been holding events much more frequently than in the past and another notable decision by him and his team was to bring out a publication to celebrate 60th year of its existence in the country. 

With more and more people of various organizations preferring to take the soft option of disposing of content digitally, the Aziz Memon-led ESUP chose to take the conventional, deemed much more respectful, mode of documenting the achievements in the form of a printed book. 

Not only has the ESUP brought out a very neatly printed book of over 70 pages in A-4 size, a proper launching ceremony was also held at a hotel on August 24 in which the recently appointed Administrator of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Barrister Murtaza Wahab, who also happens to be an Advisor to the Sindh Chief Minister, was the chief guest. 

Top officials of the ESUP and considerably large number of its members were in attendance during the book launching ceremony which was organized at the lawn of a hotel, in accordance with the SOPs of COVID-19. 

In his welcome speech, the ESUP President, Aziz Memon, briefly threw light on the accomplishments of the organization, most of which have been documented in the anniversary book. 

He recognized his fellow office-bearers for extending him the support in implementing decisions aimed at furthering the cause of the ESUP. 

Barrister Murtaza Wahab, as expected, talked more about the various issues of Karachi and his eagerness to revive the glories of this metropolis which has continued to grow phenomenally in all directions over the years.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

AKU, GB partner to adopt, scale up innovation digital health app

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) government and the Aga Khan University (AKU) have signed a memorandum of understanding that will lead to the formal adoption and deployment of the university’s mobile health application and web portal, Hayat, into the region’s routine health services. 

Hayat allows lady health workers, LHWs, community midwives and immunization staff to instantly log details of mother and child health services provided during field visits and to more effectively raise awareness about preventable diseases. 

At the system level, the app’s web portal enables health care supervisors and government officials to access essential information in real-time on the performance of health workers and campaigns. It also provides detailed reports and data to inform evidence-based decision making and policy. 

Over 114,000 children and adolescents, and over 200,000 adults in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have benefited from services delivered through the Hayat digital health platform since its introduction in 2018 via a partnership between the AKU, the Aga Khan Health Services, the implementing partner of the project, and the GB government.

The GB government will now take over responsibility for operating the digital platform in the district of Ghizer. The agreement will also see the government replace existing paper-based processes for key reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health services such as vaccinations, antenatal care, nutrition and preventive health services, postnatal care, child growth monitoring and family planning with systems using Hayat’s infrastructure. 

Speaking about Hayat’s impact, a lady health supervisor working in Ghizer said: “What I find most exciting is the availability of all paper-based forms and checklists in a digital format in Hayat. It helps me complete my tasks in no time.” 

The digital health application will be powered by a data centre based in Gilgit that was voluntarily established by the University and has now been handed over to the local government at no cost. The initiative will aid the government’s plans to digitise the health system in order to enhance the efficiency, transparency and accountability of the provision of health services. 

 “Gilgit-Baltistan is committed to raising key maternal, neonatal and child health indicators. The Hayat app will now be our primary means to collect, store and evaluate data about the health system’s performance. We are also considering the roll out of the app in two more districts in Gilgit-Baltistan,” GB Health Secretary, Mir Waqar Ahmed, remarked.

Prior to the introduction of Hayat, GB’s lady health workers and immunisation staff faced challenges in coordinating with one another. LHWs would share details about children who needed vaccinations with their colleagues through paper-based systems which often led to late vaccinations and children being missed during campaigns. 

In contrast, the Hayat app ensures automatic and immediate coordination between health workers which has ensured that more children in Ghizer receive recommended vaccinations within 48 hours of birth. 

Speaking about the Hayat app, a vaccinator in Ghizer, GB, said: “With the app in place, we can keep a track of (vaccine) defaulters and reach out to them to get their due vaccinations. Even if the family is not in the village, I can still call them and inquire about the due vaccination status. This has not only helped me perform my duties well, but also enabled the clients to trust me and my recommendations.” 

“Hayat has effectively demonstrated the immense potential of digital health interventions in strengthening health systems. The university looks forward to continued collaborations with health departments across the region to enhance the adoption, coverage, scale-up and integration of initiatives that can help achieve health targets under the sustainable development goals,” AKU President, Firoz Rasul, noted.

“Public-private partnerships enable innovations to be implemented at scale. We are glad to be working with a partner that shares our belief in the power of technology to enhance access to quality healthcare,” Saleem Sayani, director of AKU's Technology Innovation Support Centre and the project’s principal investigator, added. 

Hayat has been rolled out in health facilities across Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2018 but this is the first time that a government has agreed to incorporate the app in its operations and to ensure its sustainability by including its operational costs in its budget. The AKU is currently in discussions with the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan to roll out the system in more districts. 

The app’s development was jointly funded by Grand Challenges Canada and the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. In addition to Hayat, Aga Khan Health Services has been collaborating with AKU on multiple digital health projects in northern Pakistan with an emphasis on maternal, neonatal and child health services, and immunization programmes.