PESHAWAR -- A nationwide awareness campaign is seeking to save lives by informing Pakistanis to "give way" to ambulances.
The "Pehlay Zindagi: Give Way to Ambulances – Give Way to Life" campaign was launched throughout Pakistan in October by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and more than 30 public and private partners.
The goal is to educate drivers on how to act responsibly by moving out of the way of ambulances rushing patients to hospitals. The campaign is scheduled to end at the end of December.
"An ambulance is not just a vehicle, but [also] a symbol of a struggling life, and our duty is to make sure that it reaches hospital without any delay to get immediate treatment," Minister of State for National Health Services Regulation and Co-ordination Saira Afzal Tarar said during a ceremony in Islamabad marking the start of the campaign.
The awareness campaign has manifested itself in a variety of ways.
Young volunteers have been distributing pamphlets and stickers among drivers throughout Peshawar with the message "Ambulance Ko Rasta Dain" or "Give Way to Ambulance".
A number of seminars, talks and conferences also have been held all over Pakistan to raise awareness among the general public.
"We appreciate the volunteers and the organisations who are educating the drivers about how important saving a life is by giving way to an ambulance when you are on the road," Ayub Shah, a public transport driver in Peshawar, told Pakistan Forward.
He said he has spread the message among other drivers. "There were a number of incidents in which the patients died ... because they could not reach the hospital on time," Shah said.
A number of public figures -- including athletes, actors, singers, journalists, lawyers and politicians -- have additionally made public statements in support of the Give Way to Ambulances campaign.
The Rescue 1122 emergency services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in Punjab are the ICRC's main partners.
"Drivers and the public can help save lives by giving way to ambulances so that vehicles [can reach emergencies] and rush a [possibly] dying patient to hospital on time," Bilal Ahmad, a spokesman for the service in Peshawar, told Pakistan Forward.
Ambulance drivers and paramedics bravely perform their duties, including rescuing those wounded in terrorist attacks, he said. They "risk their lives to protect the life of a wounded person".
The traffic police are helping the campaign.
"We are supporting the awareness campaign being carried out all over the country to educate drivers and other members of the public that giving way to an ambulance can save a human life," Riaz Ahmad, a traffic superintendent of police in Peshawar, told Pakistan Forward.
The priority of a traffic sergeant is always to make way for ambulances stuck in traffic jams so that patients who need emergency treatment can reach hospitals in time, he said.
"A small mistake by a driver can result in the death of someone struggling for life in an ambulance," he said. "A driver must always go to his left to give way to these vehicles coming from behind to save human lives."