Third Team Deployed in Usta Mohammad

Third Team Deployed in Usta Mohammad 

October 7, 2010

Taking Aga Khan University’s flood response another step forward, a third multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, midwives and logistics persons has been deployed in Usta Mohammad to attend to hundreds of Internally Displaced Persons in the region. The third team will build on the efforts of the first two deployed for a fortnight each in late August and mid-September respectively.

Backed by Dr Saba Aijaz, a medical resident at the University, the first team was air-lifted from Quetta to Usta Mohammad, since the network of roads was inaccessible. “Finding a suitable living space and making our presence felt in a largely male-oriented setup was a huge challenge, and local politics only added to it. Initially both the authorities and the army did not believe that we had travelled all the way to Usta Mohammad to set up a health camp. But that we were able to attend to so many patients, mostly women and children, made everything else secondary,” says Zeenat Badruddin, a nurse who was part of the first team.

The 12-member team soon set up their health camp at the Usta Mohammad Labour Hospital, a facility that has not been operational since 2004, and were dealing with and treating over 300 patients daily. Three paeds, medicines and gynae clinics were set up, along with a small emergency and pharmacy. Small groups of doctors and nurses were also taken to other flood-stricken areas in the vicinity such as Saifullah Shah, Noorpur Shah and Gandaka, by boat. “We used to treat around 500 to 600 patients daily, most of them living on roadsides and small shelters. We came across many pregnant women with severe anaemia, dehydration and skin problems. Out of the hundreds of children we attended to, most suffered from severe diarrhoea, dehydration, malaria and skin infections,” says Dr Saba Ajaz.

The team had to do makeshift arrangements to treat patients outdoors since recourses were scarce as compared to the amount of people they were attending to. Patients were treated outdoors on charpoys which were enveloped in ropes to designate spaces. “The way this enthusiastic team of doctors and nurses spontaneously improvised clinic setups and attended to large numbers of patients was remarkable,” says Dr Gulzar Lakhani, Manager Clinical Affairs at AKU. 

By the time the second eight-member multidisciplinary team replaced the first on September 17th, as they were driven by road to Usta Mohammad, hospital conditions had improved significantly. Working on the groundwork laid out by the previous team, the second team was able to put up an X-ray department within a short span of time, also making the available labs and equipments operational. The hygienic conditions, water supply and communication networks also improved markedly.

“We treated over 300 IDPs on a daily basis, with the majority of them being women and children, with the help of the extremely supportive local staff, who were willing to work long hours and weekends with us, even though they were not required to do so,” says Dr Keran Habib, and Infectious Diseases Fellow at AKU, adding that “in the end, it was teamwork that saved the day both for the teams and for the patients we attended to.”