Hopes are to continue free emergency medical support Despite the tense security situation in Hangu, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been working inside the Hangu Tehsil Headquarter Hospital in this northern Pakistani city since May 2010. In 2011, MSF provided medical care to 20,440 patients. More than 18,900 patients received care in the emergency room. Of those, 979 underwent emergency surgery. Throughout 2011, MSF medical teams also referred 460 cases to Peshawar for specialized surgical and medical care. During the rainy season, MSF treated 1,526 patients with acute watery diarrhea between July and October. MSF will continue its free, emergency, medical care in 2012, in order to help meet medical needs in the area.
MSF has also established a mass casualty preparedness plan in the hospital, to be able to quickly respond and provide emergency lifesaving medical care to the victims of bomb blasts, clashes and other trauma cases. On Dec. 22, 2011, following a bomb blast near a private clinic in Hangu city, MSF received four injured patients and immediately provided them with emergency surgery. Two of them were referred to Peshawar for further specialized surgery and medical treatment, but unfortunately one of them later died. The two others injured remain hospitalized. Says a caretaker of an injured patient: “If this kind of emergency surgical care was not available here, I think my family members would not be able to survive.” All the medical care provided by MSF in the emergency room and surgical department is free of charge, which helps ensure people have access to quality lifesaving medical care. “I am only a driver and I cannot afford expensive treatment. But all the treatment, including food, is free of charge here. So for this, I am happy,” says one of the injured patients. To ensure the safety of patients and medical staff, MSF implements a strict no weapons policy inside the hospital. “The presence of anyone armed could turn the health facility into a target. For the security of patients and medical staff, it’s crucial that all communities and authorities respect the neutrality of the health facility, making it a safe environment for all patients, and guaranteeing that all people have access to medical treatment, regardless of their political or other affiliations,” says Abdelkader Tlidjane, MSF project coordinator in Hangu. In the mother and child health centre, MSF has since May 2011had one international staff working as a midwife to assist with complicated delivery cases and to provide training, while the daily services inside this area are run by Pakistani Ministry of Health staff. So far, MSF has assisted 134 complicated delivery cases with free treatment.
“With the continuous acknowledgement and support from different communities and authorities, MSF is keen to continue our assistance in the THQ hospital [Hangu Tehsil Headquarter Hospital], to ensure patients in the area can have access to emergency medical care,” says Tlidjane. MSF currently has approximately 130 international and Pakistani staff working in Hangu, including 61 staff in the emergency room and operating theatre, and one expatriate midwife supporting the Ministry of Health staff of the mother and child health centre. MSF is a medical humanitarian association providing free emergency medical assistance to people in need, independent of any political or military groups, in about 60 countries around the world. Since 1986, MSF has been working in Pakistan with Pakistani communities and Afghan refugees who have been affected by armed conflict, natural disasters or a lack of access to medical care. MSF teams are currently providing free emergency medical care in Kurram Agency in FATA, Hangu, Peshawar, Lower Dir and Malakand in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and in Balochistan province. MSF relies solely on private financial contributions from individuals around the world and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency, or from any military or politically-affiliated group for its activities in Pakistan.