The alarming condition of the children in Sukkur

by Saskia Hankel,  2010/10/05

Saskia Hankel is a professional paediatric nurse and studies medicine in Bochum, Germany. The committed young assistant has already taken part in several humedica missions. Currently, she is in Pakistan as a member of the fifth medical humedica team, in order to help the people there. Despite the experience she has already gained in disaster areas, she considers the situation in Sukkur to be alarming and by means of this article she shares her Thoughts from Pakistan with us.

“The situation that I encountered in Sukkur on the first day we set out with our mobile hospital was worse than I had expected. Since I had taken part in missions before, for example in Somalia, India or Haiti, I am familiar with seeing children in bad conditions. But what I have experienced here is worse than all I have seen so far.

Our humedica team, consisting of two doctors, a paramedic, myself – a paediatric nurse, and many committed local assistants of Kindernothilfe and Riverside Slum Children Projects, drove to a region where refugees have settled after the floods.

After the flood disaster, thousands of children in Pakistan are facing a new threat: undernutrition. Photo: humedica/Raphael Müller

Quickly, we set up places for treating patients, a bed for examinations, and arranged our pharmacy. There already were some patients waiting for us.

Many of the children we treated suffered from large, festering abscesses that were spread over their whole bodies and had to be cut open. This was a traumatic experience for the children and under these conditions work sometimes was difficult for us, too. This difficult task was taken over by our coordinator Simon, who works as paramedic in Germany.

What I considered to be most alarming were the children’s nutritional conditions: thin arms and legs, wrinkled skin, haggard faces and heads that seemed unproportionally large. Many of them were moderately undernourished, some of them had already reached a state so severe that we did not want and could not allow them to leave again.

They were lying limply in the arms of their mothers, who also looked emaciated. They did not cry or scream – if anything, you could hear them whimpering.

We explained to the mothers that we would take them and their children to the nutrition centre of “Ärzte ohne Grenzen” (Doctors without Borders) for severely undernourished children. Apparently the women did not want to take a decision on their own and left again. They rather wanted to wait for their husbands to come back from work in the evening.

So we returned after sunset in order to talk to the fathers. When the families’ living conditions were revealed to us in the light beams of our torches, I had a lump in my throat. People were lying everywhere on seeping mats on the ground, they had no roof over their heads and the children were sleeping in the dust without any protection. Their few belongings were piled up in small heaps between them.

Little Fasil

It took some effort to convince their parents, but finally we were allowed to take two of the children to a nutrition centre for severely undernourished children. One of them was little Fasil: he is 10 months old and weighs only 3200 grams. In Germany this would correspond to the weight of a rather small newborn.

With his ten months, little Fasil weighs not even as much as a small newborn in Germany. Photo: humedica/Simon Gelzenleuchter

We know that Fasil is now cared for by professionals and therefore has a real chance of surviving and recovering full health again. His mother, who had at first been very reluctant to go with us, took leave of us clearly relieved and with a smile on her face.

I wish we could do more for those children and although our additional food certainly helps, it nevertheless seems to be just a drop in the ocean, if the families do not have enough food to eat on a regular basis.

We have also seen many moderately undernourished children whose state was at the border to severe undernutrition. We provided them with highly nutritious special food, but could do nothing else than sending them back to their families, feeling helpless, since the children obviously were in a bad state, but their conditions were not yet severe enough for them to be taken in at a hospital.

In the meantime, official numbers confirm our impressions. According to studies conducted by the UN, 27 percent of children suffer from moderate, and 9 percent from severe undernutrition. At some refugee camps the situation is even worse: of 500 children every second child is moderately undernourished there.”

Dear friends and sponsors of humedica, “After the floods there is hunger” was the title of a report published lately by a German Online-Newspaper. The reports by our mission teams in Pakistan are alarming and seem to confirm this statement.

Please continue supporting our medical relief aid for the flood victims in Pakistan, which more and more also includes treating undernourished children. Send a text message containing the reference DOC to +49 8 11 90, make a donation for the people in Pakistan via our online form or in the traditional way by transferring your donation to the account below:

      humedica e.V.
      Donation reference “Flood relief Pakistan
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

Thank you very much!

Thank you very much for your support. Photo: humedica/Simon Gelzenleuchter

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