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The human tragedy remains


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I was standing on the banks of a muddy tributary making its slow rippled way through rice paddies. A cold wind was blowing in my face and ruffling the trees freshly washed from last weeks rains. The sky was partly overcast with shafts of lights peeking out from among the clouds onto the fields, it seemed like a great place to just put a manji and lie down to listen to nature at its idyllic best. Unfortunately there was no time to lie down on this trip as we had come to Khorwah to conduct a medical camp.

Khorwah is a sleepy little village cum town just on the outskirts of Thatta. Too small to be of any note yet of the size that can support 5000 to 6000 people. Most of the locals earn their living from working on rice farms or weaving baskets and other handicrafts to sell along the main highway.

—Photo by Faisal Kapadia.

The floods had ravaged this area just like others in Sindh right up to the Deewan sugar mill which was right opposite our campsite on Saleem Khan’s farm, who not just hosted us but fed every single patient who visited.

The waters have receded with time but they have left behind many families who do not have income streams any longer, plus many of the locals had been hosts to their family members fleeing the incoming water from higher up in Sindh and thus are still in a desperate need for aid.

—Photo by Faisal Kapadia.

After a quick wash in the tributary to take off the dust of travelling to this location (three and a half hour drive from Karachi), we proceeded to start setting up our medical camp which would start early next morning with the doctors accompanying us and would grow as the second team joined us from Karachi. When I say we, I mean our team of Offroad Pakistan which has been working on relief activities all around Sindh since August last year.

Once the camp was setup and signs made in local Sindhi for the incoming patients, we proceeded with organizing stationary for the camp. Many teams ignore the importance of proper patient forms and data entry in the field to later realize that they saw a lot of people but have no information on them for follow-ups.

—Photo by Faisal Kapadia.

A proper screening area with three volunteers was setup which processed patients into areas of ailment marked out on desks which doctors would man to consult. The last stall was the pharmacy which would supply the donated medicine and lead the patients to the food area where they could eat their fill before leaving.

—Photo by Faisal Kapadia.

We started at the crack of dawn and opened doors to a throng of people at 9.30am. As patients streamed in we realized that people were mostly dealing with three issues: poor hygiene, unawareness of birth control methods and rampant poverty. They, either had skin diseases and were unable to treat them properly due to lack of a working rural health center or they were too poor to buy the medicines prescribed to them by other visiting doctors. There were many families with eight kids or more and this seemed to be a recurring theme throughout the day, as our team of psychologists also discovered large scale suicidal tendencies in a lot of female patients.

—Photo by Faisal Kapadia.

As one of the organizers helping patients and trying to maintain crowd control, it was surprising for me to see that most of the male patients were easier to handle than the women. Or perhaps the women were used to violent herding-like tactics which none of us would indulge in. Suffice to say, in about five hours the camp treated 1,200 patients, handed out 1,500 dental kits and aided more than a 100 people for post-camp surgical procedures, which we will sponsor in hospitals upon returning to Karachi.

—Photo by Faisal Kapadia.

It’s always euphoric to help people but for me, the highlight arrived around midday with a father bringing his severely malnourished child to the camp. Our doctors not only managed to re-hydrate the child and revive him but most certainly saved his life which was hanging in precarious balance. Saving that one child gave our team renewed vigor to see the effort through.

—Photo by Faisal Kapadia.

As I sit here writing this after the first Sehri of the holy month, I am thinking how important it is for all of us to realise that although the floods of last year may be over and long gone, the human tragedy remains. It remains in the form of people stranded in areas they fled to, it remains in the fact that they cannot go back as they do not have the prowess to obtain further loans from their respective landowners to plant new crops. It also remains in the grim reality that their life is better in these alien surroundings with visiting, once-in-a-while medical camps and aid teams than it actually is back home.

So as a nation we still need to own and provide for these people, especially during Ramazan. Therefore please remember the flood victims when you donate your Zakat to any organization and recognise the fact that poverty-stricken, malnourished and on the brink of suicide, could just as easily have been one of us.

Faisal Kapadia is a writer/blogger based in Karachi.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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The writer is the Editor Lingua Urdu at Global Voices. He is also the Director Digital Strategy and Social Media at Mind Map Communications. He tweets @faisalkapadia.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (8) Closed

Tahir Rizvi Aug 02, 2011 11:12pm
Glad to read about the work being done and healthcare being provided to our rural communities. I agree with the observation of Mr. Faisal Kapadia that most of the problems in our rural communities are from poor hygiene, unawareness of birth control methods and rampant poverty. These basic problems can only be solved by education. It is sad that about sixty four years after Pakistan’s independence we have not made any meaningful dent in illiteracy and spread of education in Pakistan. In fact a case can be made that the “education gap” between Pakistan and developed countries of the World is more today than in was at the time of our independence in 1947. On one hand we claim to have and finance one of the best Armed Forces in the world but on the other hand we do not worry about the investment, enhancement and spread of education in our country. We need to review our priorities as a nation. We have limited resources which further require us to maintain a balance in each sector of our economy. We cannot afford anymore to spend on one sector, the defense, at the cost of the other sector the EDUCATION. We need major investment and emphasis in our education system in the country. Our education system needs major upgrade to close up the gap by which we have fallen behind since our independence particularly in our rural areas. We can afford to wait for the importation of “drones” for our Armed Forces but we cannot wait any more to open upgraded new schools in our rural and urban communities. We must review our national budgets of defense and education together to maintain balance in our priorities.
Ali Nazim Jafri Aug 03, 2011 03:49pm
Your blog description of the work rendered to the needy citizens is great work and I find a lot of similarities with us across the borders. Problems surmised of the people are identical: mal-nourished, no child birth control and poverty. We need to work together for the two nations living as individual identities established over the period since independence and partition. High level people to people contact will definitely go a long way in banishing this bane from the sub-continent. This will establish the high stature of the two countries in the commity of nations of the world. But, first the people must get their dues to a level of living desired as human beings of one class.
nuvaira Aug 05, 2011 12:36pm
Its a great thing you guys went and helped..God blessYou..i hope in future these poor people will not be forgotten and get assisted in making their lives a little better..
akhtar77 Aug 07, 2011 06:09pm
at times iget perplexed why the govt is fleecing us in the shape of taxes? prime responsibility of any govt is to provide protection to the people against natural or man inflicted disastresses.
akhtar77 Aug 07, 2011 06:24pm
it is a humane tragedy and the govt which fleeces the citizen through the scheme of taxes is not visible both provincial and federal. the collects taxes to provide protection to the people from natural tragedies and the man inflicted excesses. is govt of pakistan and govt of punjab are aware of this foremost res ponsibility.
Sameera Aug 09, 2011 08:15am
Keep up the good work. May God reward you for this
Tahir Rizvi Aug 10, 2011 04:19am
Provision of health care to our rural communities is commendable. May I also propose that in addition to providing them this help can we also teach them how they can help themselves? Hygiene training should also be provided to our villagers to increase their awareness and benefits of cleanliness and how to protect from infections. Teaching of birth control methods will also help as long as political and social sensitivities are respected and any conflicts are prevented. For alleviation poverty some training in farming practices and skills may help. Our rural communities lack many skills from brick laying, fertilizer application, insecticide selection & spraying to welding and electrifications. Based on any rural community’s need we can establish what type of skills will make a positive difference in the economy of that village then we can tailor our training of required skills in those fields
almas Jun 03, 2012 10:45pm
Keep up the good work. May God reward you for this.. You guys are raising your voice to help mankind