May 2010 as the plane landed at Islamabad International Airport I gazed at the Margla Hills in the horizon behind the dusty mist. I knew that this was a country which in recent years had been the victim of natural calamities, terrorism and political instability. But, nonetheless, it was beautiful; dusty but beautiful. Little did I know in 3 months the worst devastation, not just the country, but the world, has ever seen was about to strike.
It’s been just under a month since the devastating floods hit North Pakistan and now the effects, like a slow moving Tsunami, have filtered downwards to the south of the country. The dust has become mud. Houses, belongings and people were swept away. Now for the survivors, an existence with an uncertain future. This disaster is different to the 2005 Earthquake in both its scale and magnitude. ‘Imagine England underwater’.
As news of the disaster reached me, I was glad to be part of the Midland Doctors Association UK (MDAUK). This local charity was formed in 2006 by a group of local NHS professionals who had travelled to Pakistan following the disasterous earthquake in order to provide emergency medical relief. They had funded their own trip, took no wages and had set up a charity with absolutely no administrative costs. Nottingham has and continues to play a highly significant partin the charity`s work.
MDAUK is building a quake proof charity hospital in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan administered Kashmir This has a foundation structure containing 250 tonnes of steel and is unlike any structure in that region. Building continues with Joy and Pat of Nottingham University Hospitals coordinating the stockpiling of donated furniture and medical equipment.
At the start of the flood disaster MDAUK teams already on the ground for the hospital project, reached villages that are no go areas for International NGO’s. In North Pakistan, MDAUK fed the hungry, filtered water for the thirsty and cleaned the dirty wounds of the acutely injured. This pattern is being repeated in the south and MDAUK sent a team of UK doctors to Sindh, in the South of Pakistan. PIA announced free transport of food boxes, and I with a team of voluntary helpers (Smaira, Rubina, Razia, Mumtaz, Humma & Mahad, Sukhi) filled and packed off 100 boxes.
Using our own local contacts and medical expertise we have been able to cut through red tape and bureaucracy and have provided important services and provisions for the flood victims. We were the first agency to report the high incidence of skin infections in refugees and purchased medicine specific for this need. Our food packs for families were not just daily packs but weekly and now are monthly packs containing a staple diet. Also we were the first agency to bring the use of the Life Straw for dirty flood water to the UK media and started fundraising for this.
MDAUK has recently forged a link with the Pakistan Paediatric Association and we are getting daily reports from doctors on the ground about the situation with children. In one refugee camp of 9000 people, we have identified 1200 children under 5 with mal-nutrition. These children are in daily risk of dying from gastrointestinal diseases. Our team have decided to feed each of the children at this camp for £1.20 per child. no money goes to administration, every £1.20 we can goes directly to put together the specialist food for these at risk children.