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UNICEF Pakistan supports services for women and children disabled by earthquake injuries

© UNICEF_001/A Zaidi
UNICEF Representative, Omar Abdi with an injured girl at the Spinal Injury Unit NIHd.

By Kitty Logan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 23 March 2006 – Among the most vulnerable of the thousands injured in last October’s earthquake are those who suffered severe spinal injuries. In a society where disability is not easily addressed, UNICEF is providing support by helping Pakistan’s National Institute of the Handicapped (NIHd) to establish a special ward for injured women and children.

Some of these earthquake survivors will never walk again and need vital support, which until now has been scarcely available in some parts of Pakistan.

‘Now things are better’

Housed in the annex at an Islamabad hospital, the UNICEF-funded centre for women and children disabled by the quake offers specialized support and rehabilitation for up to 100 patients. Patients receive intensive physiotherapy and specialized care from a large team of doctors and counsellors.

© UNICEF_002/A Zaidi
Minister for Health, M Nasir Khan and UNICEF Representative, Omar Abdi unveiling the plaque at the Spinal Injury Unit NIHd.
“Thank God now things are better, thank God we were given help here,” says Parveen, a pregnant woman being treated at the centre. “Had we been taken somewhere else, we might have died from bedsores.”

Parveen’s unborn baby survived the whole ordeal, and she is due to give birth in a month. Doctors expect the baby to be fine, but they say Parveen will never walk again. The real challenge will be for her to return to her remote mountain village.

Community-based rehabilitation

In a bed opposite Parveen’s in the ward, a woman with a spinal injury has already had her baby. But the new mother’s emotions are mixed. For these women from impoverished villages, there is generally no infrastructure in the community to assist them when they return with a child and a permanent disability.

But UNICEF, besides offering care in the Islamabad clinic, is also providing continued support in the women’s home communities. “They are getting all the treatment, food, medicine, everything,” explains UNICEF’s Project Officer, Dr. Imran Mirza, who is overseeing the project. “And now we are also working along with the WHO and the Ministry of Health. Our future plans are that when these patients go back to their communities, we should have a community-based rehabilitation system, which has never existed before.”

Another UNICEF priority is to equip schools so they can accommodate the special needs of disabled children. The young are especially in need of long-term care.

One earthquake survivor, Sadaf, 13, was trapped in the rubble for hours after her school collapsed. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. But there is some hope. With the help of special supports on her lower legs, Sadaf has been able to stand. There is a good chance that with continued therapy, she will walk again.

But UNICEF, besides offering care in the Islamabad clinic, is also providing continued support in the women’s home communities. “They are getting all the treatment, food, medicine, everything,” explains UNICEF’s Project Officer, Dr. Imran Mirza, who is overseeing the project. “And now we are also working along with the WHO and the Ministry of Health. Our future plans are that when these patients go back to their communities, we should have a community-based rehabilitation system, which has never existed before.”

Another UNICEF priority is to equip schools so they can accommodate the special needs of disabled children. The young are especially in need of long-term care.

One earthquake survivor, Sadaf, 13, was trapped in the rubble for hours after her school collapsed. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. But there is some hope. With the help of special supports on her lower legs, Sadaf has been able to stand. There is a good chance that with continued therapy, she will walk again.

 

 

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