I arrived here in Pakistan in May beginning my journey with MSF, a lifelong dream (clichéd I know!). I had always envisaged that I would be posted somewhere in Africa and had not thought about working in this part of the world.
The challenges of working in a country like Pakistan are immense and it is a country of many contradictions. But I have been struck by the warmth of people here – from the kind stranger who leant me his phone at the airport when I couldn’t find the MSF driver, to the kind (and very patient) expat who took me shopping to buy my Shalwar Kameez, and to the wonderful local and regional staff at the hospital who work so tirelessly, but also the patients - who despite such adversity, still smile, hold my hand and say thank you. It is for them that I have decided to share my experiences in this blog.
I have now been in Pakistan for one month and started in Chaman project - and what a month it has been. Chaman is located in the Balochistan province on the Afghanistan border on the route to Kandahar. This is an area that has some of the worst health outcomes in women and children’s health in Pakistan, and in fact the world.
The work here is immense – the need is huge, but our resources are limited. Here in Chaman, we have a paediatric ward with nine beds (including both inpatient paediatrics and the inpatient therapeutic feeding centre) and nine beds in the nursery. Given the population in the Chaman area and that we are the only inpatient paediatric facility, we are almost always at greater than 100% occupancy. We aim to provide for the sickest children in Chaman, but also those with whom we are able to make a difference. This presents many difficulties and we are faced with difficult decisions every day.
What has really struck me is how sick these children are when they arrive here. The children are often severely malnourished and present very late in the course of their illness, and so by the time they arrive at our hospital, it is often too late. During my first week a 10 month old boy was admitted weighing only 4kg. He was carried in and placed on the cot by his mother – although I couldn’t talk to her, I could see in her eyes that she knew the situation was grim. He was severely malnourished and unwell with fever and diarrhoea. His chance at survival was limited but we would do everything we could - staying by the bedside for the next few hours, giving all treatment to try and save this little life. But after seeing his little body struggling for as long as it could, he eventually passed away.
It broke my heart to see this little boy die in circumstances that are far too common and so preventable. But this is why I am here. Hoping to make a difference, no matter how small it may be, because every child deserves that chance.