Islamabad-The Federal Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar on Friday said that public-private partnership was indispensable for implementing road rights and creating awareness among drivers across the country to respect lifesaving operations by ambulances.

She was addressing at the launching of a nationwide campaign titled ‘Pehley Zindagi: Give Way to Ambulances-Give Way to Life’ in a ceremony held at a local hotel. Only the government cannot achieve this objective but all the public and private organisations must join their hands to disseminate awareness about road rights among drivers. Saira Tarar said that the ministry was fully cognizant of the hurdles being faced by the ambulances staff in their life-saving efforts to bring patients to the hospitals in time. She said the ministry was ready to extend all its support to initiate legislation to address the issue of ambulance obstruction in different cities of the country with the support of all the stakeholders. The minister said, “It is painful to hear every time when someone could not survive for not being able to arrive at the hospital in time. Ambulances are not merely vehicles; they are symptomatic of a struggling life for which every minute is important”.

As part of ‘Pehly Zindagi’, a public pledge campaign starting from October to December will use TV, radio and social media to urge citizens to respect and give way to ambulances by pledging their commitment. Whoever takes the pledge and spreads the message becomes a member of ‘Friends for Life’ - a virtual platform aiming to introduce contemporary Pakistan to its social obligation. Recognising the key role that the media can play in making people aware of the message, ICRC and its partner organisations have called upon the sector to get involved in highlighting the importance of this life-saving mode of transport. The campaign also seeks to sensitize people to the issues faced by ambulance staff to bring about behavioural change among the public and policy makers.

The campaign draws attention to an important health-care issue in Pakistan as part of the wider International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Global Health Care in Danger project, addressing the issue of violence against health personnel and services.

The campaign is supported by over 30 partner organizations from across the country and will carry on until December 2017. Pehley Zindagi is the second edition of the ambulance campaign. In 2016, the Rasta Dein campaign received an overwhelming response from the media and the public. The campaign’s impact, measured through an observational study, stood at a promising 16 percent. This year, the impact of the campaign on motorists’ behaviour towards ambulances will be systematically assessed before and after the campaign through observational studies.

The partners who will work alongside the ICRC to promote the campaign including Al-Hamra Arts Council, Aman Foundation, AAPNA Institute of Public Health, Canteen Stores Department, Capital Development Authority, City Administration of different cities, Edhi Foundation, Federal and Provincial Health ministries and Traffic Police, I am Karachi, Irsa University, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Khyber Medical University, Pakistan red Crescent etc. The ceremony was attended by a large number of officials and representatives of ICRC, all the partner organizations and relevant ministries.