Thursday, December 11, 2008

Civil Hospital: final hope for hundreds of peasants from interior Sindh

Sixty two-year-old Muhammad Kabeer is on his knees outside the emergency operation theatre of the Civil Hospital. His eyes remain fixed at the operation theatre's exit door as his wife struggles for life inside. "While giving birth to her fourth child, she suffered an injury," Kabeer narrates his sorrow tale. He gently strokes his three year old son Abdul Jabbar as he speaks, his eyes filled with pain.Abdul Jabbar, is one of Kabeer's four children.
He is too young to stay home so Kabeer brought him along to Karachi with his pregnant wife, Farzana from Shahdadkot. The story of Kabeer is however not unique. Hundreds of patients arrive at the Civil Hospital in Karachi from different areas of Sindh in search of healthcare. They come here because their towns and villages lack basic health facilities. Kabeer works as a peasant in Shahdadkot. He and Farzana got married a few years ago, and he is 36 years older than his wife. Looking back, Kabeer recalls his marriage as the best thing to have happened in his life. Kabeer believes it was the black stone that he had been carrying with him for so many years that changed his luck forever, bringing Farzana and him together.
Life before marriage revolved mainly around work in fields, where Kabeer spent tireless hours digging dirt with spades, and sickles. His only friends were the bulls that helped him plow."I felt like I was the luckiest person on earth," he says, whilst stopping his bare-footed son from picking up an empty packet of cigarettes from the floor. But as luck would have it, things changed. His life took a U-turn when his pregnant wife encountered urethral complications before giving birth to their fourth child. The doctors at a nearby hospital refused to admit her and advised Kabeer to take her to Civil Hospital in Karachi. "After an operation at the hospital she gave birth to a child, but during birth she suffered injuries to her genital system".
Dressed in worn out clothes, with a traditional Sindhi cap resting on his head, Kabeer unravels his distressing tale. Following birth, Farzana and Kabeer went back home, with a prescription in hand. Three months later, Kabeer again finds himself at the Civil Hospital, this time he is told that his wife is in serious condition and doctors will have to operate."She is undergoing an operation in the theatre," he says sullenly. Kabeer is lost between two worlds; his village and the Civil Hospital in Karachi. For a moment he thinks about his children back home but then his eyes scan the operation theatre for his wife's return.
At times Kabeer thinks of how angry his landlord must be for remaining absent from the fields for the last three days. It seemed Kabeer had a lot to think about and he could not decide on which problem to address first."There is no health facility in the hospital at Shahdadkot," he says, adding that people, in order to get proper medical treatment, have to come to Karachi. The heat under which he works has darkened his skin and his wrinkled hands stand witness to his hard work. "There, the doctors do not come to the hospital regularly," he complains about the government hospitals in his area.
Oblivious to his father's pain, three-year-old Abdul Jabbar slides on the floor, chewing on an empty packet of crisps, which he picked up near the dustbin. The smile on the child's face says he likes the taste. "Most people in our village die because of lack of health facilities," Kabeer claims.He has enrolled his two older children in a local school as well as a Madressah. "When they grow up, I will teach them how to bow and harvest," he reveals his plans for his children.Kabeer remembers that once he also went to school, "Mai bhi aik daraja para hua hunn (I have completed one year of school)," he proudly says. However he maintains he will send his children to school till grade 5. Shahdatkot is a district of Sindh, that lies some 51 kilometres outside Larkana. The peasant after working day and night hardly earns enough money to bring food to the table. His wife's condition has forced him to borrow money in order to bring her to Karachi. "Tell the government to build a civil hospital for us," he demands, and waits for his wife to emerge out of the operation theatre.

No comments: