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International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s 'Healthcare in Danger' project seeks to spread awareness about the violence against healthcare and the impact it can have.
Here, we look at some of Karachi’s dedicated healthcare workers who put their own lives on the line to save others.
It was a routine day for Mujahid Rehman, an Edhi Emergency Services ambulance operator. He got to the scene of a shoot-out to help patients. Instead, he ended up becoming one of them.
Rehman was walking towards the injured lying on the street when he, “felt something like a stone” hit him in the back. He would later learn that it was a bullet.
Rehman had been warned to stay cautious.
But he remembers thinking that he has to step forward. “Edhi sahab had always told us that saving even one life helps save all of humanity,” he says.
Rehman lay in the street for over two hours. He says that until he reached the hospital he didn’t even realise that he had been shot.
“I had never imagined that someone would bomb an emergency ward at a major urban public hospital,” says Daisy Nasreen, Head Nurse at JPMC’s emergency ward. Then on February 5, 2010 the unimaginable happened when a blast outside the hospital’s emergency gates killed 18.
Coincidentally, the hospital had already been on high alert that day. “We were ready to receive a large number of patients,” Nasreen recalls.
After the news of two blasts in the city reached the hospital staffers, they prepared for the intake. Little did they know that soon they’d also be in need of medical attention. At 5pm they suddenly felt “a huge blast rip through the ward”.
“There was debris and dust everywhere and we were in complete shock,” Nasreen recounts. “We could not tell who was where, and how many of us had been injured,” she says.
Dr Seemi Jamali runs one of the largest and busiest emergency wards in Karachi. Ensuring the safety of her staff and patients is thus one of her biggest concerns. “We have not forgotten the twin bomb attacks right here at the JPMC emergency room back in 2010,” she says.
The hospital has increased security “considerably” since the attacks. “But it still isn’t enough,” Jamali says.
"We face violence, assaults, verbal abuse and even death threats all the time," she says.
Even in the face of threats Jamali and her staff try to be empathic. “We know they are dealing with terrible emotional trauma and despair, particularly here at the emergency room,” she says.
Dr Faisal Tehseen says guns in the emergency room are “never a pleasant situation”. He remembers last year a couple who had been in a traffic accident were brought to the Indus Hospital emergency ward.
“The man was not hurt, but his wife had sustained some minor injuries,” Tehseen says. “But her husband had clearly been troubled by the incident,” he adds.
When the man learnt that his wife was being discharged he started “screaming and abusing the nursing staff”.
The doctors immediately intervened to keep the situation from escalating. A few minutes later the man rushed back into the ER with a Kalashnikov, accompanied by two other men “who were both heavily armed.”
“Even after he was escorted out, we were afraid."
One morning at 3.30am, Sabir Christopher, an Aman Ambulance Services vehicle operator, picked up a critically ill patient and swiftly proceeding towards JPMC.
Out of nowhere, an armed man walked towards the ambulance. “As we drove towards him, the ambulance lights now illuminating him clearly, he raised the weapons and began firing at us.”
Christopher tried his best to avoid the bullets, but several bullets pierced through the windshield. Christopher managed to escape, with the patient staying unscathed.
“As we sped out of the area we noticed a police vehicle parked on a corner and approached them for help. After hearing what had happened, the police informed us that the situation in the area was very volatile and advised us to leave immediately,” he says.
Brave solders of Karachi Paramedic Team..All the best
We salute them for their hard work and dedication. They should be provided all possible protection and safety.
Beautiful work Dawn!! Keep it up. These are ordinary people, doing very good work. They must be recognized and appreciated.
Hats off to these guys
Thanks Dawn, Nice article. You people are keeping journalism alive. Very sad reading these stories and knowing these humanitarian people being attacked for helping people. I am almost in tears. Humanity is alive and would be alive until the end of the world. Thanks to the people you mentioned and the others who keep helping poor and needy people. Thanks Dawn. You are the best.
keep up the good work. These healthworkers are truly heroes
Salute these hero's of pakistan
Salute to the unsung heros of Pakistan who are there to help humans without any prejudice and malice. Kudos to Dawn for bringing them to the limelight.
Salute to these people!
Indeed these people are the real heroes for being so selfless and for dedicating their life to such a cause.
All of us can learn from them.
Excellent, some of the stories are unbelievable. All these people are the examples that still our society has heros.
Thanks to DAWN to publish the stories.
Thanks dawn for singing accolades to these unsung heroes.
Very very sad. I wonder who these people are that are so inhuman to do this to a fellow human being? Someone who is trying to help the dead or wounded.
A true hero!!
This will paint a very negative image of Karachi. I have lived in this city all my life and its nowhere that bad.
Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. Albert Einstein
These people are the real heroes and people always ignored them but thanks to ICRC for bringing their stories in front of people through media. Everyone need to appreciate their work because they are trying their best to save the human lives.
There are even worst cases of medics being targeted and murdered in mostly Karachi. The reason: they belonged to a particular faith not acceptable to another particular faith, who not only consider them infidel, but liable to be murdered. So that was it. My bro-in-law was one of them. We all knew this was to happen because he was the most famous physician of the area. How do doctors become famous: by being empathetic, caring, loving and of course best quality of medical attention to all and sundry.
True heroes of Karachi
Salute to the unsung heroes of Pakistan ! Thank you for everything you do .
Front line healthcare jobs are never easy. Salute these brave people. From India.
Powerful stories, thank you for sharing
BRAVO, real heroes of the nation and several others of their type not mentioned here. Not to forget the ones giving ritual baths to dead bodies which are even disowned by their family members.
Keep it up guys, Karachi and Pakistan stands behind you. CHEERS!
They are really our heros.
This shows passion and dedication for the work that they have been doing not caring protection for themselves but for the whole humanity.
Keep it up!
Being a son of a Doctor who ran one of the most volatile and dangeorus hospitals in interior Sindh and is now for 8 years doing one of the most feared and dangerous job as a Doctor, i.a a Medico Legal officer, i can relate and understand each and every word of this post, both in my capacity as a Son and as a 4th year Medical student.
All praise to these individuals specially the nurses working in Emergency.Sadly this is not isolated to Karachi. As an orthopaedic surgery resident at King's College Hospital, London, I witnessed gunshot patients were accompanied to AE by armed police(rare for UK) to protect staff as even here in UK, emergency staff has been attacked. We as a nation need to learn how to agitated. Burning tyres and breathing in poison and or attacking the emergency staff who is trying to help is not the cleverest option.
Salute to these real heroes, they risk their lives to save others. great work. There should be
some risk covers for them. GOD bless them all.
Several times we saw guns in ICU. On one such occasion when a son of an old lady admitted in our ICU came with the gun, everyone was afraid. I approached that guy and told him that your mother is dying and even if you kill all of us she will not survive. Finally he burst into tears and things got into control. LNH 2006-7
The good people of Pakistan are unable to take control or operate in this country. Unfortunately that is the way some people want it to be to continue their dirty games.
These are real heroes of humanity....everyday helping people in distress. Thanks DAWN for sharing this with us and telling about these great people
@Ali It's actually worse. Living in denial mode doesn't solve any problems, it exacerbates them.
It's all too common throughout Pakistan not just Karachi
Incredible in the modern world. Are people that angry and ignorant? It would be difficult for most people in the world to understand. As the saying goes... no good deed goes unpunished. When aid workers are killed trying to protect children something is amiss. Men in Pakistan must change their mindset.
And these my friends are the real salt of earth, the people who ought to be celebrities, the people who ought to be our role models.
Brain surgeons, heart surgeons, big doctors could be trained for the incentives....but these are the people who are in for love and make the biggest impact....mostly without any rewards.
Salutes to them.
It hurts to see that these humantarians have to face on a daily basis. What a crime against these wonderful people. The society needs them more
These people are commendable, their services are praiseable, we should give the protection to avoid such situation the have faced
To all the paramedical staff and doctors and nurses: Thank you for your dedication and sacrifice.God Almighty assures that it is never in vain and I hope you can take comfort in that. Please pass on your knowledge and experience to the new generation so that it is not lost and they can continue the good work. Please run programs to inform the public of the work you do so that they cooperate with you and know how to respond in an emergency and gain awareness of health and safety issues. And vote for a government that serves you.
Nice steps keep it up.And salutes to all workers of Edhi.