In Pakistan, Community Savings Groups Save Lives

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During my recent trip to Chitral (the northernmost District of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province) I met Aisha, who showed me how women are using community based savings groups to access skilled health care. This particular model for community-led group savings – also known as Village Savings and Loan Associations -- is an innovation in this part of Pakistan, introduced through the Aga Khan Foundation’s Chitral Child Survival Program.
 

Aisha joined a local community based savings group a year ago. It was the third such group in her community, providing women with local opportunities to save and take loans within their own remote communities. Four months ago her daughter-in-law Nahida faced a health emergency caused by a retained placenta, which can cause heavy bleeding and infection. Anxious about her daughter-in-law’s health and the fate of her new grandson, Aisha prepared to take them to the nearest health facility—more than two hours away. What’s more, she couldn’t afford the transport.

 
Nahida and her son received urgent health care thanks to her mother-in-law’s decisions and local savings group.Aisha went to her community based savings group and quickly got a loan for 3000 Rs (about $35) to pay for the ride to the health facility. Usually the trip costs much more, but the new Village Health Committee (formed by the project) had negotiated lower rates with several local transport providers to make health-related transportation more affordable. Thanks to the fast access to funds for transport from Aisha’s savings group, Nahida made it to the health facility in time. The skilled care they received saved Nahida and her son. Since then, Nahida has joined a savings group herself.

 

My trip demonstrated the incredible work of our team in Chitral and, more importantly, the dedication of the communities in northern Pakistan to make life-saving healthcare more affordable and accessible.

Andrea Wilson was the Health Program Officer at AKF USA. Chitral Child Survival Program (CCSP) is an initiative of the Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan Health Service, Pakistan (AKHS,P) and made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development.

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