BLOG 4: Doc in Pakistan

Wasel HeadShot.jpg(Dr. Wasel Kabir is a Canadian physician who is volunteering to help Pakistanis affected by the floods. It is the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Dr. Kabir is blogging exclusively for Day 6.)

Day 4: Who's Helping Who? (September 5)

Interesting experience to start our day. People come up to our car asking for money. This is common. We usually give what we can.

But this man with a small monkey approaches. We offer him some money, and he refuses! He wanted more!

Next, an elderly woman: she graciously accepts the same amount we initially offered the monkey man. T

oday's clinic is located an hour away from our location. The road entering the area is covered with water. I'm told it used to be level with the top of the Jeep's door.

We drive into the campsite. About 7,000 people are living in tents. The tents are white, uniform and about 10'x15'. I saw tents providing shelter for families with upwards of seven members. They don't have anything except each other; to them, that's all that matters.

They seem eager to see us as we drive in. Children wave and follow the truck. Everyone seems curious: who are we, and what are were doing. When we stop, a small crowd has gathered around us, perhaps half-expecting we are here to hand out food or water. (Except for the food and water given by relief workers, these people have no source.)

Some know we are physicians and tell us the medical tent was in different areas. This was not done maliciously: their motivation in each case is family in need of medical attention. They have such passion and care for each other. They are relieved to see the potential their loved ones' suffering might be reduced.

Our three medical tents were at the far end of the camp, it turns out. The Islamic Relief medical banner was placed on the tent to show where to get medical attention. We quickly unload the donated boxes of a few variety of antibiotics, intravenous fluids, syringes, vitamins and limited bandages.

We quickly realize that our diagnosis and treatment will be slaves to that narrow supply of antibiotics and medicines. We can only effectively treat those diseases to which we have a treatment, and hope the painkillers and medicines will somehow manage and/or provide comfort to those who need more than what we can offer.

We are providing desperately needed, acute emergency care, in a poorly funded initiative, where the demand far exceeds the supply. I do not like this one bit.

They come.

They come to us holding their sick children, sick themselves.

They come independently, as young as four years to as old as 76. Groups of children come together. Families come together. We expect we'll see 400 people in a few hours.

I anticipate being overwhelmed by hordes of desperate people yelling, crying, pushing, shoving, getting angry, getting violent, promoting anarchy, and stealing. I mean, after all, that is what we are told and are lead to believe: poor, uneducated, desperate Pakistanis do that, right?

The behaviour of the people is quite the opposite. Mob anarchy is seen in situations when a musician cancels a show, or if a city's team wins or looses the world championship, or when people protest the G20/G8 summit, etc.

These people are patient, orderly. They listen to what we say. No arguing, no pushing. We communicate diagnoses the best we can and they accept any treatment. They trust and respect us. I respect them and admire them more that any community of people I have known.

Gasteroenteritis, diarrhea, skin rashes, malaria, eye, ear and throat infections, weakness, fatigue: these make up the majority of out cases. But we don't have the luxury of even a proper exam bed let alone medical supplies and lab tests. So, we do what we can. Oh, and I have not seen a single obese person within these thousands.


In the distance I saw people getting food and relief packets, dropped from a large truck. They all were going there to get what they could. I am not sure they all got something. I noticed some walking back empty-handed. No food for them for a bit. Unfortunately they are used to it.

I played and talked with a few kids. I like kids. Sometimes I can be a big kid. They were amused at my poor attempt to speak their language, but I played into it. They told me they were fine and when not talking or running around with each other they do nothing. Sony Playstation sales would be nil here. It would destroy their purity, their innocence. They find greater value in other things. Besides they don't even know TV exists.

This trip is changing my outlook on people, on life and on living.

(some editing by Day 6 producers)

SEE ALSO: Canadian Doc in Pakistan (part one)

SEE ALSO: Canadian Doc in Pakistan (part two)

SEE ALSO: Canadian Doc in Pakistan (part three)

LINK:  Islamic Relief Canada

DONATE: CBC Pakistan ReliefWasel for promote.jpg

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