A joint Pakistan-Saudi Arabian telehealth online platform is set to launch in Yemen to provide urgent maternity and childcare services amid the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis, Arab News has reported. Educast was first launched in Pakistan and has successfully trained hundreds of Pakistani doctors in the field of telemedicine since last year. It is now to be expanded into war-torn Yemen, which suffers from one of the highest mortality rates in the world.
According to Educast CEO Abdullah Butt, "Our main focus in Yemen will be maternal, neonatal and child health. [The authorities in Yemen have] granted us permission to start the telehealth operations under the e-Doctor programme." The installation and testing of relevant equipment has been completed, he added, and operations will be launched in the first week of September.
In preparation for its expansion, Educast has put together a team of 200 licenced, Arabic-speaking female Pakistani doctors who are based in the Middle East. They will provide the consultancy services in Yemen online as well as through tele-clinics.
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Many of those doctors were trained by Educast with the academic support of Pakistan's Dow University of Health Sciences in Karachi. The e-Doctor initiative was made possible by attracting female doctors who had left the profession for personal reasons, such as marriage.
"We have provided online training to 800 female e-doctors, working remotely from home in 15 countries," explained Butt. "At present, through the platform, 450 women e-doctors are attached to Sindh government's central coronavirus disease monitoring cell which remotely oversees thousands of Covid-19 patients."
The ongoing pandemic poses a threat to the humanitarian and health situation in Yemen, with the country's healthcare system one of the least prepared to deal with it. There have already been almost 2,000 infection cases within the country and at least 560 deaths.
The team will also reportedly be training local healthcare workers, according to the head of the e-Doctor operations in Yemen, Ghulam Mustafa Tabbasum. "Through this project female health workers, nursing staff and paramedics will be trained by experts using our online interaction lectures."
Educast's expansion into Yemen comes as a vital development at a time when Yemen's health services are struggling with the pandemic and the effects of the war between the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi militia since 2015. It was revealed last month, for example, that numerous healthcare workers are quitting their jobs in the country amid fears of the virus and that it has killed at least 97 of them so far.
Maternity care and childcare have among the most impacted sectors, with the UN warning in May that 320,000 pregnant women were at risk of losing access to vital healthcare, and adding in June that 2.4 million Yemeni children are at risk of starvation.
IOM: 100,000 displaced in Yemen in 2020 due to fighting, COVID-19