The rural community of Pind Begwal, Pakistan, lies just 20 miles from the capital city of Islamabad. But throughout the community, medical infrastructure remains limited, only assuaged by a small, dilapidated health center that suffers from regular doctor absenteeism.Last year, a team by the name of Saving 9 participated in the Mittal Institute’s Seed for Change competition, earning a grant to help launch their Community Aid and Response in Emergencies (CARE) project in Pind Begwal. In September 2018, the team launched the program, their goal to create a robust system that would provide emergency medical treatment to a community that has limited access to healthcare.
Saving 9 has already launched a brand-new ambulance system for the community and has trained Emergency Medical Personnel to respond to emergencies and provide first aid. Next, the team is training adults throughout the community in medical response and creating a team of scouts — students from schools in Pind Begwal who will receive first aid training and participate in professional development workshops.
Emergency Transport System
Without sufficient healthcare operations in Pind Begwal, it was essential for Saving 9 to find a way to get patients to hospitals in Islamabad. With a 40-minute drive across bumpy roads, personal transportation for injured patients is difficult. To help solve that dilemma, Saving 9 recruited three community members and trained them as Medical First Responders and full-time ambulance drivers for Pind Begwal.
With an ambulance in tow, emergency medical services officially launched in Pind Begwal in January 2019. Since then, the ambulance has responded to more than 110 emergencies, and the team has learned that they’ll eventually need to fold additional ambulances into their ranks to deal with simultaneously-occurring emergencies. With such little healthcare infrastructure in Pind Begwal, its community members look to Saving 9 for help with even minor injuries.
A New Female Ambulance System
After the emergency transport system launched, the Saving 9 team quickly noticed a major issue. “Due to cultural and religious restraints, the local population was hesitant to allow male emergency medical personnel to get into close contact with women involved in emergencies,” Saving 9’s latest report states.
With this new knowledge, Saving 9 created a groundbreaking second ambulance service run entirely by women, certifying six female trainees who began responding to emergencies in May 2019. Within one month, five childbirth emergencies were responded to, and women were “ensured equitable access to medical help… without any inhibitions or culture barriers.” On top of that, Saving 9 reports that the new employment opportunity empowered local women both socially and financially.
Teaching Scouts and Bystanders
Within these new developments, the Saving 9 team has learned that it’s also essential to train the community at large, spreading awareness on how to provide first aid and respond to the medical emergencies they witness.
With the Scout system, Saving 9 began training students in first aid in Pind Begwal’s House of Light school, teaching them how to act on a life-and-death situation and giving them opportunities to develop new skills and rise through the ranks of Saving 9.
Continuing efforts to spread community awareness, the CARE project is expanding its trainings to members of all major neighborhoods in Pind Begwal, teaching participants how to deal with emergencies at home. Each week, up to 20 participants learn how to deal with sprains, choking, burns, bleeding, fractures, and snakebites.
Now, over 100 community members have received training and have a better understanding of how to react in an emergency. Plus, they’ve learned how some “traditional ways to treat emergencies were actually harmful” — providing them the necessary skills and knowledge to rethink how they treat injuries. With several major accomplishments already under their belts, the Saving 9 team is looking to the future — and hoping to continue uplifting the community of Pind Begwal through education and healthcare.