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Speech by Princess Zahra at the opening of the Princess Zahra Pavilion Karachi 2021-09-06

Monday, 2021, September 6
Princess Zahra Aga Khan
Princess Zahra Aga Khan

Speech by Princess Zahra Aga Khan during the opening of the Princess Zahra Pavilion at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan

September 6, 2021

President Firoz Rassul. President Designate Sulaiman Shahabudin, Aga Khan University Hospital CEO Dr. Shahid Shafi, generous Donors, Leaders, faculty and staff of the University

It is an honour to share this occasion with all of you today and I only wish we could all be together in person.

First and foremost, I would like to thank the extraordinarily generous individuals and families whose philanthropy made it possible to construct this remarkable facility. The fact that this project has engaged a wide and varied donor community demonstrates how the Aga Khan University is widely appreciated.

It is an honour for me that this building should bear my name as does the original Pavilion which was constructed over twenty years ago in Nairobi.

These are buildings that offer not only an exceptional level of care to patients, but also a high level of comfort, services and amenities to them and their families.

The entire team responsible for its design and construction deserve congratulations and every single person responsible for its day-to-day operations should be proud to work here. As a result of all their efforts, Pakistanis no longer need to leave their country or their families or to bear the expense and anxiety associated with doing so, in order to access such care.

Providing care in a facility such as this Pavilion is, however, only one aspect of the work of the Aga Khan University Hospital where, in fact, one out of every ten in-patients at the Hospital earns less 300 rupees or $2 a day.

We are able to provide surgeries, and other complex care, to these patients thanks to the financial support of our Patient Welfare Programme. In 2019 the AKU Hospitals provided over three billion rupees, or $20 million in patient welfare to more than 800,000 patients in Pakistan.

A significant portion of welfare funding is provided by our donors and we are deeply grateful for their support. Yet 75% of patient welfare is financed from the Hospital’s own revenues. The Pavilion is an important source of revenue for the Hospital – and thus it is an important contribution in our ability to serve the disadvantaged segment of the population.

In this context, I would note that while the Pavilion offers patients an unmatched level of privacy during their recovery, they are treated by the same surgeons and specialists in the same operating rooms and facilities as other hospital patients, including our patients and welfare recipients.

If we widen our angle of vision, we find further evidence of the ethos of public service that distinguishes the Hospital, the Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Development Network as a whole.

During the pandemic, the University has trained tens of thousands of doctors and nurses at public and private hospitals in infection control and caring for COVID patients. It has provided crucial advice to the Sindh and national governments at the highest level and it has played a key role in assessing the effectiveness of new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

At the same time, the Hospital has cared for thousands of severely ill COVID patients, vaccinated tens of thousands of individuals, tested hundreds of thousands of people for the virus and tracked the spread of new variants.

Together, the AKU Health System and the Aga Khan Health Services constitute a nationwide network that cares for more than two and a half million people in a typical year. Meanwhile, the University has addressed outbreaks of HIV/AIDS and drug-resistant typhoid, worked to stamp out polio and helped to improve the quality of care in government health facilities in low-income communities.

Its researchers are using artificial intelligence and stem-cell science to develop cutting-edge tools for fighting malnutrition, breast cancer and genetic disorders.

AKU also expands access to high-quality health care and education through its academic programmes which graduate hundreds of doctors, nurses and teachers every year.

I know that you know this because you helped me to make it possible. We could not make such a difference in so many lives without our donors whose support has continued even amid the hardships of the pandemic.

So I want to thank all of you for your generosity – whether you have helped AKU to build buildings, purchase advanced technologies, launching new academic programmes, provide scholarships to low-come students or enable access to healthcare through patient welfare.

Your gifts not only change lives, they demonstrate what can be achieved when generous people from different backgrounds come together to pursue ambitious goals.

Thank you

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