Today I had the privilege of visiting RMF’s Clinic in Talhatta, Balakot, KPK (formerly NWFP).  I have to admit I didn’t quite believe the RMF team when they said that we’re the only health care provider in Balakot, the valley worst hit by the 2005 earthquake and with a population of over 120,000 people.  While I had no doubt that RMF must be doing amazing work in Balakot, I assumed there had to be other NGOs providing health care.  Hadn’t the whole world run up to the mountains of NWFP after the earthquake?  Doesn’t USAID give billions to Pakistan?  I was incredulous.

Today I got the chance to not only see for myself the amazing work we’re doing, but also see for myself that we are the only ones providing health care.  Driving through the valley, the roadside is littered with placards announcing the donation of every NGO and government under the sun but five years later everyone has pulled out.  There is one small government hospital, a beautiful brand new facility which is tragically underutilized: the x-ray room and laboratory remained locked, the doctors too busy in their private practices, and OPD hours shortened.

In the 5 years since the earthquake, the valley of Balakot is swarming with life again as families have worked to gain back their livelihoods.  But they haven’t built back.  Since this area is still a disaster prone area, the government has not allowed the residents to build their homes again.  The residents have been promised relocations, but 5 years after the earthquake they’re still living in temporary shelters and tents with no prospect of moving since the new “earthquake victims colony” being built in the next valley over is quickly being filled by wealthy residents from other areas.

In limbo, the residents of Balakot live in a semi-refugee status, with nowhere to go and none of the resources that the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in other areas of the country are getting.  Where everyday life such a struggle, at least the residents of Balakot have one silver lining: RMF’s clinic.

Located in a central point in the valley, our clinic provides high quality basic health care free of cost and provides patients transportation to the nearest district hospital (3 hours away) in our jeep/ambulance for serious cases.  With the mountains in the background and wild flowers growing in front of the facility, the clinic looks as if it should be the location of a mountain resort.  Instead, RMF has 4 functional buildings – made out of concrete and sheet metal – which serve as the doctors exam room, the women’s exam room, the pharmacy, and a small in-patient unit.  We also have a temporary premade building which houses the doctor and medical technician who live on-site.

In the women’s unit, our incredible Ladies Health Workers give ante-natal check-ups, exams, and family planning services (counseling, IUDs, injections, etc).  Our doctor and medical technician provide expert medical care, treating everything from wounds to respiratory infections and malaria.  Our pharmacy is fully stocked and free of cost to the patients.

I spoke to some of the patient outside the clinic.  One woman coming for her ante-natal check-up said that she had walked for 3 hours down from her village in the mountains to get to our clinic.  When I asked her why she came all this way, she told me how the Lady Health Workers had counseled her on how important regular ante-natal check-ups are for her and for her baby.  She plans on having the baby at our facility.

I asked another patient how she heard about this facility, a question which confused this woman.  “How did I hear about it?  Everyone knows about this clinic.  It’s the only place to go.”

One of the best parts about observing the buzzing clinic and watching all these women and children get treatment from our compassionate staff was the fact that my visit was unannounced.  For security reasons I did not tell anyone I was coming up to the clinic, so when I arrived to see everything fully functioning and moving, I knew that all of our reports from the clinic were true.

While Balakot is no longer in the international limelight, RMF has committed to helping the community.  This is no longer a post-earthquake emergency intervention, but a program which provides essential services to a community who is in deparate need of them.

Help us help Balakot.  Donate at

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