Category Archives: Health

Extraordinay People: An ‘inspirer’ who empowers

By Zubeida Mustafa
Imran-1-300x199The Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) is well-known for the healthcare it provides free of charge to the marginalised. Not so well known, however, is the egalitarian  philosophy that its founder, Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi, has instilled in the Institute’s working guidelines. This means providing equal opportunities to all in other walks of life as well. Take the case of Muhammad Imran, 53, who is the head of the operation theatres  at SIUT.

Continue reading

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Trapped in poverty

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By Zubeida Mustafa

MIGRANTS are in the news all over the world. Recently, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) released in Rome a report titled Sending Money Home which focused on the remittances — $436 billion in 2014 — transferred by migrant workers to their families. This received positive publicity. The countries that provided jobs to such workers were seen as helping alleviate poverty in the Third World.

In Canada, where I am on a visit, I chanced upon a local paper The Golfi Team Real Estate Market Watch which carried an article against immigrants blaming the latter for many economic woes of the country, including the escalation of property prices and suppression of wages. It sarcastically accused the political parties of seeking to capture immigrant votes by adopting pro-immigration policies while pretending to benefit the rest of the world. Continue reading

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Paper chase

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN May the World Economic Forum issued the Human Capital Report 2015 that facilitates a comparative assessment of the education systems of various countries. For that purpose the WEF has created an index that uses four criteria (termed pillars) as a measure. They are education, health and wellness, employment and enabling environment. The idea is to judge the productive capacity of the workforce

Where does Pakistan stand in this league? With a score of 52.63, we rank 113th out of a total of 124 countries assessed. In other words, only 11 countries are in a worse state than us. Finland which tops the list has a score of 85.78. Continue reading

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Effects of nutrition on educational standards of school children of a developing country

By Zubeida Mustafa 

In the age of specialization we have become so focused on specific areas and issues that we fail to take a holistic approach to problems. The fact is that human life comprises several integrated sectors. The impact of one on another is profound and symbiotic. Hence effective solutions to various problems call for a comprehensive strategy. Here I shall take up two very important areas of a child’s life that are closely interrelated though they are not treated as such by the policymakers. They are education and nutrition.
Both of these pose a major challenge to the people as well as the authorities in Third World countries. While education requires the government to provide facilities to enable children to enroll in school to study, nutrition is related to the health of a child without which education can prove to be a daunting task. A child who falls ill frequently has a high incidence of school absenteeism. That affects his education because irregularity in attendance causes her to miss her lessons and lowers her standards. While this is a phenomenon that is pretty visible, there is an insidious feature of children’s health that has an impact on education which does not find general mention in literature on paediatric health or education issues.
This is the impact malnutrition and various deficiencies make on the cognitive and mental growth and development of a child. It actually affects her intelligence, memory and capacity to learn. While the side-effects of the deficiency of various vitamins and iodine on the physical health of children have been documented not much is known generally about the impact of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency on the intelligence and mental capacities of a child.
This is significant considering the widespread prevalence of malnutrition in Pakistan. According to the National Nutrition Survey (2011) nearly 43.7 percent of all children under five years of age in Pakistan are severely or moderately stunted. The same survey found 15.1 percent under-5 suffered from wasting and 31.5 percent were underweight.1 There is a lot of regional disparity in and within the provinces. Continue reading

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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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