BEHIND THE MASK: Pakistan’s First Online Interactive Documentary on Lady Health Workers.

Pakistan (Muhammad Yasir) Public Services International (PSI) announces the launch of Pakistan’s first online interactive documentary experience, providing critical insight into the lives of lady health workers who continue to stand on the frontlines of Pakistan against all infectious diseases, saving hundreds of lives, every single day.

Lady health workers are part of a government program that was developed in 1994 to provide basic health care services to underprivileged communities in rural and low-income urban areas. They have played a crucial role in polio vaccine dispensation, pre- and post-natal awareness and healthcare for rural mothers, and health education and promotion, family planning, and most recently, for COVID-19.

Divided into a series of episodes, “Behind the Mask: Pakistan” is a key episode which focuses on the struggles faced by healthcare workers specifically in Pakistan, chronicling their challenges and the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. The Pakistan episode of the documentary highlights the work of Hassena, a lady health worker [LHW] who, along with her colleagues, formed the All Sindh Lady Health Workers and Employees Union (ASLHWEU) to advocate for better working conditions and wages.

With “Behind the Mask: Pakistan”, PSI campaigns for flood relief, the restoration of the health risk allowance for health workers, provision of the service structure for lady health workers, and the cancellation of debt, including Pakistan’s sovereign debt as part of climate reparations.

Indeed, despite the critical frontline role of lady health workers in the fight against diseases such as polio, cholera, and COVID-19, they continue to face harassment, terrible working conditions, low pay, inflation and wage stagnation, lack of new hiring despite increased need, threats as polio workers, vaccines shortages and inequality, and a lack of recognition. To this end the Behind The Mask: Pakistan episode focuses on key issues such as vaccine access, wages and hiring, the service structure, and ILO Convention 190[1], which seeks to protect people from violence and harassment at work.

Since the documentary was filmed, the health risk allowance has been withdrawn for healthcare workers, despite being constantly at risk, treating patients with infectious diseases. Issues around wages and hiring along with the lack of funding for the health care sector, continue to build and the recent devastating flood has created additional health crises.

The floods have displaced at least 7.9 million people and damaged or destroyed more than 2 million houses and 1,460 health facilities wiping out a large part of the country’s agriculture. Frontline workers are struggling to address the immediate crisis of injured and displaced people while the spread of water-borne diseases and limited medical supplies continue to create further hardship. Indeed, a huge number of Lady Health Workers themselves have been affected by the flood through displacement and illness.

“Behind the Mask: Pakistan” then sheds a light on the continuous protest of Pakistan’s healthcare workers to demand the resumption of the health risk allowance, the service structure and equally the persecution of those protesting, through arrest and the use of force.

Behind The Mask: Pakistan episode can be experienced at:

The documentary is produced in collaboration with Workers Education and Research Organization (WERO), PSI’s partner organization in Pakistan that is strengthening and supporting the movement of lady health workers.