Naureen Aqueel

Death visits, not the doctor

Posted on: August 21, 2010

Published in The Express Tribune – city, August 21, 2010.

By Ali Syed, Atika Rehman, Naureen Aqueel

Dozens of hopeful, pleading and curious eyes follow us as we enter a relief camp set up in a construction site tucked away in the vast green landscape of Gulshan-i-Maymar. Water tankers, Edhi ambulances and police vans flank the entrance. Death lingers inside.

Flood survivors said that four of the deaths were children with gastroenteritis with two occurring on Wednesday. But officials said that there have only been three deaths, and that too at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, not in the camp.

A doctor provides first aid to a sick woman in Gulshan-i-Maymar relief camp. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS TRIBUNE

Water is the usual suspect. The camp, which was opened on Aug 14, consists of about 1,000 incomplete Sindh Workers Welfare Board apartments with no taps or electricity. Ten times the number of people have to find space here.

Landhi DDO Sher Hussain Shah admits that a supply of unfiltered water had caused the gastroenteritis outbreak. “Initially polluted water was being used in the camp because the water storage tanks were unclean,” he said. “But now the situation is quite better.” The tanks have been bleached and cleansed on the advice of World Health Organisation (WHO) officials and filter plants have also been installed. The camp needs about 15,000 litres of water each day and 10,000 litres of filtered are being provided, PPI news agency reported. Shah claimed that a 10,000-litre filter plant would be installed in a few days. In the meantime, the people are getting water in buckets and bottles from nearby localities.

One block has been converted into a temporary clinic but according to Deputy DHO Abul Hafeez EDO Roshan Ali Shaikh wants all sick people immediately taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, JPMC or the Sindh Children’s Hospital. For all others, the ‘clinic’ is a five-room apartment with a solitary bed in one room with a visibly distraught patient hooked up to an IV drip.

Gadap CMO Dr Shaheen is the only doctor on duty. She said that they have all the medicines needed for gastroenteritis, diarrhea and skin diseases. The Edhi medics said that they are available 24 hours a day. In another room, young children are administered vaccinations for measles, polio and hepatitis B.

According to the patients, there are five to seven doctors but there are doubts about their qualifications. We don’t even know if they are real doctors, they complained. Whatever the illness, they tell you to go to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. We have no money. How will we pay for treatment there?

A WHO team visited and its Dr Riaz Bhurt confirmed that the camp had an adequate provision of medicines and vaccines. The DDO says they will soon be establishing a gynecology facility with lady doctors.

Abuse not food

As survivors complain that they are missing meals, officials answer that not only are they getting supplies, but they aren’t using them properly. Landhi DDO Sher Hussain Shah shakes his head. “If you ask the people, they will say they are not getting food,” he says. “That is because they do not queue in a disciplined manner and they even throw the food away. If you go to the back of the building, you will see bags of food thrown away.”

These claims are backed by DO Shaukat Hussain Jokio. “Everyone is getting food. It is either getting stored or thrown,” he says. “They have a villager’s mindset and are scared that they will not get it the next day so they keep on demanding more.”

For their part, the people say that when they ask for more food they are abused by officials. Jamaluddin from Jacobabad said that they were distributing food to select people, “their own people”.

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