Category Archives: Health

Insecure rights

Sabeen Mahmud (Photo credit @almaspk)

By Zubeida Mustafa

A WEEK before Sabeen Mahmud, the ever-smiling ‘active’ human rights activist was gunned down in Karachi, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan launched its annual State of Human Rights report for 2014.

It is widely believed that Sabeen’s decision to host a seminar on Balochistan invited a terrible retribution from the powers-that-be. It is indeed saddening that this staunch defender of all the rights covered by the HRCP report is no more amongst us to act as society’s conscience to remind us that each of us becomes an abettor when the state violates any right the citizen is entitled to and we remain silent onlookers. Continue reading

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Inspired by music

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By Zubeida Mustafa

HASAN is a special child. He is autistic. Music inspires him and had it not been for his love of classical music which he shares with his grandfather, his mind would have continued to be caged. ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) prevents Hasan from connecting normally with the world around him because his communication skills have been impaired.

The magical effect of music on children has now been scientifically documented. Preschool teachers testify that sound — including language, poetry and music — positively helps a child’s mental and emotional development. Continue reading

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Shattered dreams

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By Zubeida Mustafa

A FEW years ago, when the army operation took place in Swat and many families were displaced, I went to Baldia in Karachi to meet some of them. There I was introduced to a man who told me that he had 19 children. He had two wives. I was awestruck by his virility.

He may have been an exception. But we should not underestimate the reproductive capacity of Pakistanis. According to the Population Council in Islamabad, in 2012 Pakistan had nine million pregnancies of which 4.2m were unintended. Of these 2.25m ended in induced abortions. In other words, over six million babies were born that year. Continue reading

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‘Najma has gone’

Najma Sadeque (picture courtesy Dawn.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

HER entire life was a series of battles she fought for the disadvantaged, the empowerment of women, the right of people to land and the preservation of the environment. Many of these were battles that she won. Others were ongoing struggles, as she never gave up hope. That was Najma Sadeque described as the activist who wore several hats.

Her last battle was against death and this one she lost. “Najma has gone,” I was informed by a friend who was in the hospital with Najma when the end came shortly after midnight. With her the courage and inspiration she had instilled in many had also gone, so I thought. Then I knew they hadn’t for Najma has left behind a legacy of courage and integrity embodied so clearly in her daughter Deneb Sumbul. A picture of her mother, Deneb’s dignity in her hour of grief is something only Najma could instil. Continue reading

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A new venture

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By Zubeida Mustafa

AWAY from the bustle of downtown Karachi in a remote area of Korangi bordering Ibrahim Hyderi, where our fishermen eke out a hazardous living, an experiment in social engineering is taking place. It is expected to be a milestone in the history of healthcare in Pakistan.

This new venture — the Mehrunnisa Hospital — is seemingly a modern hospital for the poor like any other, waiting to open its doors fully to patients. They are bound to visit it in droves once the bus routes are adjusted to make it accessible by public transport.

Built by a philanthropist — businessman Haroon Abdul Karim — it was donated by him to the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation in January 2013. Abdul Karim’s obsession was that patients be provided services absolutely free of charge. He visited hospitals incognito and felt that the SIUT alone met his criteria.

What makes Mehrunnisa so different that it is expected to be a model? Continue reading

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Breaking the cycle

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By Zubeida Mustafa

PSYCHIATRISTS in Pakistan have been crying themselves hoarse about the rise of mental illness in the country. Ever since militants and religious extremists have unleashed their terror on the hapless population, the incidence of anxiety and depression has been on the rise. But these disorders are stigmatised and are not publicly discussed.

There is much talk about poor governance, corruption and even the falling level of tolerance in society but no one wants to mention the impact of these problems on the mental health of the people and how the latter’s attitudes and mindsets reinforce the conditions that gave birth to the problems in the first place.

  In an article in the New Internationalist Magazine, Samah Jabr, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Jerusalem, pointed out that worse than the 2,133 deaths, 11,000 injuries and the destruction of countless homes caused by Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza in July-August 2014 was the psychosocial damage inflicted by the war. She said, “the destruction of life at a physical and material level is also the destruction of a way of life, the destruction of a point of view: physical warfare brings with it psychological warfare”. She warned that violence will “beget an unending spiral of victimhood and revenge, of polarisation … [and] of further trans-generational trauma”.

Also read: Psychiatrists concerned about plight of IDPs

This is precisely what is happening in Pakistan. Most upsetting is the psychological warfare taking place and the ground has been softened for it by the ineptitude and corruption of successive governments. The destruction of our education system, moral Continue reading

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Assistive technology

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in 2006. Picture by ELIZABETH DALZIEL/AP (Photo Courtesy: www.npr.org)

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN a recent interview, Prof Stephen Hawking, the famous astrophysicist, said that the full development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. He added that technology would eventually become self-aware and supersede humanity, as it developed faster than biological evolution.

Prof Hawking who can be termed a rare miracle personifying courage, spirit and natural intelligence, is a beneficiary of modern communication technology. He suffers from motor neuron disease and according to the doctors’ prognosis should have died 50 years ago. He has not only defied those predictions but has led a productive life contributing to his field. Continue reading

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No science culture

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN’S first Nobel Laureate, Prof Abdus Salam, constantly lamented our failure to promote science. His contributions to theoretical physics apart, he was a powerful advocate of science and research. For decades, even after he had left Pakistan in protest, Salam’s love for his homeland and concern for his government’s failure to promote science was undiminished. He continued to plead the case for science through his speeches, writings and the institutions he founded, till he died in 1996.

It is a pity that 18 years after his death, science in Pakistan continues to languish as the neglected stepchild of state and society. It never recovered from the severe blow it suffered under Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation and anti-education policies. Not that science and research had received preferential treatment at any stage, but today their survival is endangered. Continue reading

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How Young Pakistanis Help Themselves

By Nudrat Kamal The challenges that Pakistan’s young people face today are significant and pervasive, and can be addressed only through sweeping systemic changes. Notwithstanding these challenges, many young people are defying great odds to become conscientious and engaged members … Continue reading

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People’s power

By ZubeidaMustafa

THE buzzword these days is ‘empowerment’ and there is a lot of talk about empowering the people. The most vocal are political leaders who use the term randomly as a strategy to empower themselves politically.

True empowerment, however, envisages equipping people with tools they can use to achieve a decent life for themselves and their families which can be got through education, employment, healthcare, a roof above their heads and the sense of dignity they acquire when they do not have to be permanently dependent on others to sustain themselves. An example of how people are empowered pertains to the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust which was set up by Mr Mangi’s granddaughter Naween to draw out the innate capacity of the 3,500-strong community of Khairo Dero to uplift itself.

The main tools that have been identified by the trust for empowerment are education, literacy, healthcare, microcredit for income generation and building homes and getting water supply and sanitation on a self-help basis. The fact is that until the basic needs of a people are met and a sense of security provided to them, they cannot strive for higher goals. AHMMT works, as its vision statement says, with the aim of building a “model village that can be replicated”. Continue reading

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