November 14, 2012
Pakistan 2012 © Fathema Murtaza
In summer 2012, heavy monsoon rains flooded the town of Dera Murad Jumali, Pakistan, and surrounding areas, forcing thousands of families to abandon their homes and seek shelter on the sides of roads in makeshift tents. In early September, the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team working in the eastern reaches of Pakistan’s Balochistan province expanded their existing services to include basic health care for people affected by heavy monsoon rains lashing the area.
Amina*, mother to a one-month-old baby boy, shares her story on how her child came to be admitted to MSF’s hospital in Dera Murad Jamali. Her son was brought to the MSF nursery when he was 10 days old; weighing only 2.36 kilograms [about five pounds] he was diagnosed with tetanus.
“I have been married for two years; this little boy is my first child. I haven’t named him yet—I was not sure if he would survive. I like the name Yaseen, maybe that will be his name.
We have no shade, no home or land; we live on the side of the road and use our beds as a tent. I delivered him under a makeshift tent near the Pat Feeder Canal. There are thousands of families who lost their homes because of the floods and are now living there too.
My husband, Saeed*, used to work on our landlord’s land. But the water came; it was shoulder high and we lost everything, even the food we had stored is lost.
Our landlord came down from Karachi to ensure the water was drained from his land so we could return to it. We don’t have anything to rebuild with and the landlord gave us nothing. He has gone back to Karachi. We are still hopeful that we will get some help.
When my son got sick, I pawned my earrings because we had nothing left to pay the doctors, however, when we came to the hospital here, we were told the treatment in the hospital is free! So, I used the money from the earrings to buy food for our family instead. It’s been a month since I sold my earrings, and now even the food is gone.
A few days after my son was born, he started having fits and had a temperature. We went to a private clinic where they said they couldn’t help us, but told us that we should take our son to the MSF hospital because they have a lot of facilities. So we brought him here. My son has been here for 25 days now.
Before I brought my son to the hospital he was not drinking any milk; he wasn’t even able to cry. He is my first child. I worry about him—and wonder if he will survive. We had thought about taking him from the hospital and going home because we didn’t see an immediate change in his health at first.Now, though, he opens his eyes. The nurses have explained that my son can be treated and can now slowly start to feed.
Change has happened. My son is better. Now we are going to be patient and let the medical staff tell us when our son is ready to leave. I am very relieved and happy to see my son getting better. When I am able to take him home, I plan to celebrate by providing food to people who are poor and less fortunate than my family and me. We may not have anything, but at least we have our son. ‘Only Allah can help us now.’
We are glad we were able to access such good health care, and we know that it has saved our son.
Four-year-old Zora* has three other siblings and her mother is expecting another baby soon. From the time she was born, Zora was always sick. On October 18, 2012, Zora was admitted to the MSF hospital in Dera Murad Jamali Civil Hospital in Balochistan. She was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition and diarrhea. Zora weighed only 4.1 kilograms [about nine pounds], the weight of a nine-month-old baby and a fifth of what an average four-year-old should weigh.
Zora’s stepmother, Radia*, describes what life is like for Zora and her mother. Radia is married to Zora’s father. She is his second wife.
“Zora was never like the other children, she continued to lose weight and suffer from diarrhea. We spent a lot of money trying to improve her health and took her to many private clinics and other medical facilities seeking treatment, but she would always fall sick again.
When the flood waters came our family lost everything. The walls collapsed and our crops were destroyed. We used to grow tomatoes and grain. Now we have no money to buy food.
My husband is now looking for work in Dera Murad Jamali—we need money to feed our children and rebuild our house.
Zora fell very sick when the floods started but we didn’t have any money to get her medical treatment in a clinic. For the first three to four days we could only watch as she became weaker.
A local policeman told us about MSF and said that they will treat Zora for free and help her. I brought Zora to the hospital the very next day. I was scared. I thought she might not survive. I felt she was dying. She was unresponsive and I couldn’t get her to eat. She was too weak to even cry.
The doctors examined her and started giving her intravenous fluids and feeding her milk. By evening I started to see changes in my Zora. She was responsive to pain, she even cried. The treatment is free and even I am looked after. I am very happy to have brought her here. She is finally getting the treatment she needs. I have watched many parents take their children and leave without completing the treatments—I won’t be doing that. I will stay here with her until I am told she is well enough to leave. I have seen Zora come close to dying. Now I want to see her get better. We hope now that god will help us get back on our feet again.
MSF is working hard for us and the community here, and we can only give back our duas (prayers) and thanks.”
Sadly, Zora had complications and despite the efforts of the medical staff, she passed away on 19th October 19, 2012.
*All names have been changed to protect patients' anonymity.
MSF has been working in Pakistan since 1986, with Pakistani communities and Afghan refugees affected by armed conflict or natural disasters, or who lack access to medical care. MSF teams are currently providing free emergency medical care in Kurram Agency (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Sindh provinces.
MSF relies solely on private financial contributions from individuals around the world for its work in Pakistan, and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency or military or politically affiliated group.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)