QUETTA, 22 July 2015, Pakistan (UNHCR) – Abdul Waheed’s father could not breathe and urgently needed oxygen to stay alive. Waheed erupted into cries, knowing how serious his father’s condition was. The doctor, too, knew he was critical. But despite all the worries, Waheed’s father survived – thanks to a sophisticated centralized oxygen system introduced for the first time in Fatimah Jinnah Chest and General Hospital in Quetta, Balochistan.
This first-ever centralized oxygen system was initiated and funded by the UN Refugee Agency through the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programme, which is equally benefiting both Afghan refugees and their host communities. The project was implemented by UNHCR’s partner agency, Society of Collective Interests Orientation (SOCIO).
The project includes installation of centralized oxygen system, provision of Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) Analyzer machines, cardiac monitors, Bio-safety Cabinet, Bi-PAP machines, incubator, blood cell counter and stabilizers. Other components of the project include construction and renovation of various wards and other facilities aimed at ensuring clean and hygienic environment for patients. Approximately 235,000 patients are benefiting from these improved facilities annually.
“His (Waheed) father, Mohammad Hanif, was unconscious and almost collapsed. He could have died had we lacked the sophisticated oxygen facility,” said Dr. Shireen Khan, head of Tuberculosis Department at Fatimah Jinnah Chest and General Hospital in Quetta. “He was saved and many others can be saved with the help of this facility.” the doctor added.
“I was not expecting my father will survive because he was in critical condition on the way to the hospital,” Abdul Waheed said, adding he is happy to see him alive. “I got my father back,” he sighed with gratification.
Amanullah Kakar, Chief Executive Officer of the SOCIO, said that before the installation of Central Oxygen System, the hospital was manually carrying out patient oxygenation. “Earlier you could see manual cylinder placed with every bed which was quite dangerous. With the assistance of UNHCR, we provided 20 points for 20 beds with central system which enabled us to expand the admission of patients,” he said. He added that the ABG Analyser machines were introduced for the first time in Balochistan’s public hospitals. They are important for the cure of lungs dieses and useful for doctors to manage the patient’s oxygen and other gases levels.
Dr. Shireen said this initiative has made a very positive impact and he wishes such facilities would be initiated in other public hospitals in the province as well. “With the introduction of centralized oxygen system, we have 24 hour oxygen supply system. However, due to power cuts daily for few hours, we need a big generator to have uninterrupted oxygen supply.”
In addition to the provision of equipment, he said renovation of wards by UNHCR gives a sense of contentment to the patients. “You can see this ward has a clean look, no smell and no garbage. Patients prefer to come here for treatment,” he said. He added that due to the clean environment, post graduate students now also prefer to come to this hospital for learning.
Head of UNHCR Sub-Office in Quetta, Dinesh Shrestha, reiterated UNHCR’s commitment to improve access to and quality of basic services for both Afghan refugees and host communities. “Projects like installing centralized oxygen system are lifesaving. Such projects have stronger impact on the lives of people.”
He said that the RAHA initiative is aimed at supporting host communities and providing them with quality services in the sectors of health, education, water and sanitation and livelihoods across the country. “Above all RAHA is a programme recognizes Pakistan’s longstanding hospitality towards refugees,” he added.
Balochistan hosts around 327,000 registered Afghan refugees, the majority of whom live in urban settlements alongside their Pakistani hosts. The RAHA initiative in Pakistan seeks to ensure that not only Afghan refugees but also their host communities can benefit through the improvement of key facilities.
Under the RAHA initiative, UNHCR and Commissionerate for Afghan Refugee Office in Balochistan have, so far, implemented 224 projects worth USD 20.3 million in nine districts. The RAHA programme is a major component of the regional Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) endorsed by Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan and UNHCR in May 2012. The SSAR provides a predictable roadmap for solutions and better management of Afghan refugees not only back in their country of origin but also in the countries of refuge.
Since its start in 2009 to date, some 3,500 RAHA projects have been implemented across Pakistan in the sectors of health, education, infrastructure, livelihoods, water and sanitation. To date, some 10.6 million people have benefited from RAHA projects, of which, overall around 11 per cent are Afghan refugees whilst 89 per cent have been Pakistani citizens in refugee hosting areas.
By Qaiser Khan Afridi in Quetta.