With the onset of the pandemic, the PATRIP Foundation together with its partners has sought to quickly launch emergency support for vulnerable communities affected by COVID-19. Due to a flexible pooling of remaining project funds, the rural support programmes BRSP and SRSP have each been enabled to almost immediately respond to local needs and supported public (health) authorities.
BRSP supports the Balochistan government in slowing down COVID-19 outbreak while caring for vulnerable communities
BRSP has been supporting the government of the Pakistani province Balochistan during emergency responses to various natural disasters that happened in the past. During repeated floods in the years between 2007-2011 as well as an earthquake in 2008, BRSP has proven a valuable instrument for donors to offer local-level assistance while closely collaborating with government authorities. Soon after it became apparent that the global COVID-19 outbreak would leave no country unspared, PATRIP and BRSP got together to figure out how to fund emergency activities. Fearing a disproportionately dire effect on vulnerable communities in the region, it was vital to equip and educate the local population about how to slow down the spread of the disease, as well as make it possible to adhere to hygiene rules by improving WASH facilities.
Since BRSP implements multiple PATRIP-supported projects, it was possible to pool remaining projects funds from completed projects to fund the COVID-19 emergency response. The German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) quickly approved PATRIP’s request to re-purpose the remaining funds. In April 2020, BRSP first conducted a substantial needs assessment in Quarantine centres, health facilities as well as law enforcement agencies to determine which priorities to tackle. They identified a wide range of urgent needs, ranging from hand washing facilities at immigration check points to medical and hygiene equipment to informing the public about the virus and possible prevention methods.
When coordinating its humanitarian emergency response, BRSP placed a special focus on poor households, who were the ones most harshly affected by the pandemic’s consequences. Among half a million households, BRSP is providing cash, food packages, and assistance to be linked to governmental social safety programmes.
In the period between April and June 2020, BRSP managed to comprehensively contribute to the fight against COVID-19 in close coordination and cooperation with the district’s administration, law enforcement, and health departments. Among other things, BRSP’s response included installing 70 handwashing units in public border facilities, distribute Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to frontline health workers, provide much-needed disinfectant and sanitisation utensils, as well as organised the regular disinfecting of public offices with a high degree of human circulation.
Simultaneously, BRSP conducted an extensive awareness raising campaign, specifically adapted for the context of religious institutions in the rural areas. Teachers in Madrassas as well as Imams in Mosques were trained in COVID-19 response behaviour, with a clear task to pass this knowledge on to the population.
SRSP supports provincial Health Department and District Health Office Chitral with essential medical and testing equipment
SRSP has been closely communicating with the Provincial Health Department of the Pakistani province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for several years, not least in the context of a PATRIP-supported project that involves the renovation and expansion of multiple health stations along the Pakistani-Afghan border. In March 2020, when PATRIP and SRSP began discussions on how to best adapt to the COVID-19 outbreak, SRSP reached out to the Health Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to determine what was needed the most, and where.
Meanwhile, the district health office (DHQ) Chitral had a severe shortage of protective clothing for health staff, and was in dire need of testing kits. However, the tests could not be evaluated in Chitral, which is a remote town close to the Afghan border. Rather, they had to be sent to the province’s capital Peshawar, so a large supply of Universal Transport Media (UTM) was required. As in many places around the world, the needs far outpaced the available equipment.
The emergency health structure in the Pakistan is organised on a provincial and district level. The provincial health department is the lead authority when it comes to allocating and coordinating emergency items. The DHQs can send requests to the health department, who, upon availability, may send resources to the respective office.
The well-established collaboration with SRSP made it possible for the health department to respond to the needs of DHQ Chitral in a more substantial way, by effectively allowing SRSP to deliver a part of the requested equipment. To ensure the quality of the procured COVID-19 testing kits, SRSP asked the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the Khyber Medical University (KMU) in Peshawar to sample the products SRSP intended to buy.
As a result, SRSP was able to hand over over two-thousand COVID-19 testing kits, as well as the same amount of UTM with swabs to the Health Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the beginning of July. Moreover, 800 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits were handed out for medical staff, including coveralls, faceshields, KN95 masks, as well as 24,000 disposable masks, gloves, head and shoe covers.
The items were handed over during a brief ceremony at the Health Minister’s office in Peshawar, which was attended by the Health Minister as well as the Director General Health Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and SRSP staff. A few days later, on July 9th, SRSP delivered over two-thousand UTM as well as 150 PPE kits to the DHQ Chitral. Next to the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendend of the DHQ Chitral, frontline Health workers also participated in the handover ceremony.
SRSP extends the delivery of medical equipment beyond Chitral. The concept hereby is to capitalise on the existing connections with local authorities in areas in which PATRIP projects are already being carried out.
The emergence of the Rural Support Programmes
The Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) as well as the Balochistan Rural Support Programme (BRSP) are part of the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN) which is the result of an initiative by the Government of Pakistan in 1990 to adopt the successful RSP model throughout Pakistan. The first structured RSP approach can be traced back to the early 1980s’ Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), which was active in the north of Pakistan.
The RSP approach is informed by the Pakistani social scientist and innovator Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan, who was an advocate of a participatory bottom-up approach to development in poor rural communities. At its core, the RSP approach is twofold: On one hand, people are being supported in identifying and mobilising around their needs, on the other hand, services to these communities are being improved through partnerships with public authorities and the private sector.
Several years after the AKRSP’s establishment, the USAID fostered the expansion of the RSP approach, which together with the government and AKRSP was set up in 1989 as Sarhad Rural Support Programme. The Balochistan Rural Support Programme emerged in 1991 from a programme funded by the German development agency (GIZ), formerly known as German technical cooperation (GTZ).