Q1/2009: Update

April 1, 2009

Rubina Mumtaz, Country Director, Pakistan

For Pakistan, 2008 was yet another year wrecked with turmoil and violence; our hopes to see a stable, peaceful and prospering nation are yet to be fulfilled. Despite the inherent security risk offered by a country labeled as the hub for terrorists, the very brave Dr. Martina Fuchs visited us in January.

The six-day visit began on 14th Jan with a visit to Hashoo Foundation where Dr. Baig, the Executive Director made a presentation reporting the progress of the project. The next two days were dedicated to meetings with potential funding agencies within the country. We met with Mr. Ghulam Panjwani, CEO of Focus Humanitarian, an independent subsidiary of the Aga Khan Foundation. However their arenas of interest differed from the RMF scope of work. We also met Ms. Abira Sher Afgan, the President of the Islamabad Rotary Club. This meeting was facilitated by Rotary member, Dr. Fabian Toegel, country director of India who networked the Indian Rotary club with the Pakistani counterpart. Although the Rotary Club has the budget, their basic criterion was funding health projects affiliated with the Government of Pakistan in order to ensure sustainability. Unfortunately, RMF Pakistan has no links with the government health system but this is an avenue that needs to be looked into. Mr. Zafar Omar, a local philanthropist who has adopted the THQ hospital in Balakot was particularly inspiring to meet up with over dinner Friday evening as he had single handedly transformed the non-functional hospital to a busy health care center.

Over the weekend of 17-18th January, we took the 6-hour drive up to the health camp in Talhatta. The reception was heartening to say the least. The entire community leaders of more than a dozen had gathered early that morning to collectively receive us. Dr. Fuchs was first taken on a complete detailed tour of the camp and its daily progress. The meeting with the community leaders began with a very articulate opening speech by the local landlord and the new religious leader who surprised us with his progressive views. The goodwill RMF has earned in this region over the past few years is amazing and of priceless value in these times of insecurity and senseless persecution of international NGOs by the Taliban. Unfortunately the demand of the Talhatta community was still the same which was the need of an MCH clinic to be incorporated into the center. We desperately need this budget. A sumptuous lunch followed where the community leaders shared the table with us. This one act was indicative of the love and respect we have earned as it is goes against the local tradition of segregation of sexes.

Zafar Omar joined us from Islamabad early Sunday and we spent the morning visiting the THQ hospital in Balakot. The original hospital had collapsed completely during the earthquake and a philanthropist form Karachi had rebuilt it completely in an earthquake proof structure within the first couple of months after the earthquake. Despite the restored building, it lay vacant with no staff or medicines. Zafar adopted it in 2007 and with funds raised by his groups of friends in Islamabad, single-handedly equipped the hospital with staff, equipment and supplies. It has a fully equipped operating theatre and incubator facility for an MCH care service. Unfortunately he ran out of funds due to the waning interest of philanthropists’ aid and the hospital has swung back to an inadequate level. We inspected the place with a view to adopt it in the RMF health arena. The biggest hurdle in this step is the government bureaucracy which will be inherent in this project. However, we are looking into this avenue keeping in mind funding from the Rotary Club whose mainstay was a government backed set up.

After another lovely lunch at the RMF-HF clinic and a meeting with the camp staff most of whom professed a high level of job satisfaction, we set back to Islamabad. The few problems presented by the camp staff were taken up with the meeting we had with Hashoo Foundation in Islamabad the following morning. The budget was analyzed and revised and anew memorandum of understanding with Hashoo Foundation was signed.

A very tired but satisfied Dr. Fuchs flew out of Islamabad on Monday evening. Her visit left us infused with much needed renewed energy and enthusiasm in this negative time.

The meeting with community leaders

Lunch with the community leaders

Martina with few camp staff members

Country Page: Pakistan Initiative Page: Healthcare Project, Union Council Talhatta