Pakistan’s myriad of problems with healthcare can be traced back to its deficient infrastructure. Public hospitals remain overcrowded and underfunded, while private ones remain out of reach for the common man’s budget. A rumbling crisis regarding the low salaries offered to young doctors and medical assistants compounds the problem. The result is an unsystematic healthcare regime, crying out for more investment as the panacea to its endless ills.

It is criminal then, that when we receive the funding and support required to fix some of these problems we fail to utilize it properly due to our own administrative deficiencies. The latest offence lies with the Punjab government over its handling of The Global Fund’s provincial TB Control Programme grant. The Global Fund provided a sizeable amount, in the tune of US $3,246,333, to the Punjab government to trace/detect TB patients in Pakistan, put them on medicines and provide data to the organisation to stop its spread in the country.

Yet the provincial government could only spend US $1,409,805 during the last seven months. The more egregious revelation is that out of the 940 positions created all over the country under the programme funded by Global Fund, 174 (mostly in Punjab) are vacant since the start of the grant in January 2018. Furthermore the government has not been reporting data of TB patients at the District Health Information Software (DHIS-II) since January 2019 – as required by the grant – nor has it been submitting the mandatory Progress Update and Disbursement Requests (PUDR).

As a result, the Global fund has sent an official letter to the Punjab government warning it about the suspension of the grant if such a situation persists.

This is not simply a matter of losing funding; the bacteria that causes TB spreads through the air when a person with disease coughs, speaks, or spits, hence if an infected person is not tracked and treated they may spread TB to 15 people due to immediate contact yearly. Pakistan, with an estimated 510,000 new TB cases emerging each year ranks fifth among high-burden countries worldwide, cannot afford such lapses.

On whose door should this failure be laid then? The Punjab government is surely an obvious culprit, but a large part of the blame also rests on the shoulders of Dr Aamir Nazir, who is heading the project. His own appointment had been a controversial affair, having been made in the violation of the criteria, and now the fruits of his ineptitude are there for everyone to see.