KARACHI: If one can cast a brief look, it is all open like a landscape and not so complex to realize the financial woes existing in the household of a Lady Health Worker (LHW), who risks her life in harsh environment and stand firm to provide promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services to the community. Sumaira Kanwal Khanum is one of the 25,000 LHWs across the province who is suffering the pain of salary theft. In a congested single room in the area of Union Council-13, North Karachi, Sumaira sits on her bed. She looks sad and released of her spirit. The reason for her worries is non-payment of her three months’ salaries. She is not alone suffering the onslaught of unpaid salaries. There are 25,000 LHWs across the province, who shares this financial stress. Sumaira, 45, is unmarried and the sole bread winner for her family of three sisters as there is no male member to bear the burden. Her parents died nine years ago and three sisters were forced to shift from their rented house to this single room provided by her uncle. “The situation is so worse that we don’t even having money to pay utility bills. Situation often leads to starvation,” Sumaira told. She has been working as LHW since year 1995. In last August, her younger sister, Jawairia Fatima Hussain had tried to increase the family income and joined as Community Health Worker in the area, but soon had to leave the job as authorities did not pay her. “One sister is facing protected illness. Life has become hard to live with,” she added. Unpaid salaries’ issue has compelled LWHs to suffer financial stress as they have been waiting for their outstanding salaries for three months. LHW in Sindh are on a protest for the delay in payment of their salaries, which has deprived them of their many basic requirements. Last week, LHWs in Karachi had staged a sit-in near Chief Minister’s House against the delayed payment of salaries and for an improved service structure. They are demanding that Schedule of New Expenditures (SNE) should be approved at the earliest so that salaries, allowances and other benefits are given to 25,000 LHWs in Sindh and they should not be left deprived of these. They are demanding to include their budget in the non-development from development sector so that their salary structure could be improved. Like Sumaira, Fehmida Anjum, a mid-aged Lady Health Supervisor from New Karachi’s Madiha Stop is also facing similar circumstances. Fehmida, too, is working as LHS since 1995. In a rented two-room house, Fehmida lives with four children. Her husband Ashad Ali works as driver in LHW program. Since salary is not paid to any staff, family is facing dual problems. Salary issue has become a regular phenomenon now. Because of irregular salary system, we had to change the rented house frequently in recent times. “Situation has gone from bad to worse and we had to skip the schooling of my eight-year old son, Roohan Ali, otherwise a position holder in his previous school,” Fehmida regretted. “We provide them service, when the government wants from us. They become active when they need work from us but when it comes to pay salaries, the government becomes deaf and dumb,” Fehmida added. The Lady Health Workers’ Programme, instituted in 1994 by the then Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, is considered to be one of the largest and successful community-based primary healthcare initiatives in the world. The role of LHWs has received recognition by global health bodies for improving Pakistan’s maternal and child health indicators. Salaries of all employees should be released so that like other government employees, we too get salaries every month,” said Bushra Arain, the Central President, All Pakistan Lady Health Workers Association to Daily Times. “We appeal to the Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to play his role in resolving our matter as we are on the verge of starvation. Our children are being dislodged from their schools. Bilawal should realize that LHWs are dream of his late mother, Benazir Bhutto who initiated this program,” said Bushra.