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Field diary: In Pakistan, a doctor fights back flood waters to save his family

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Zak
Dr. Arshad Durani, a physician in Pakistan's Charsaddah district, shows the high water marks left on his flood-ravaged home.

Dr. Arshad Durani is an immunization specialist working for UNICEF in northern Pakistan. Despite the destruction of his own home, Dr. Durani continues to lead immunization efforts in flood-ravaged Charsaddah district. He recently filed this first-hand report.

By Dr. Arshad Durani

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 23 August 2010 – “Wake up and help me get the children!” my wife was screaming. “We have to leave the house immediately.”

I woke with a start and looked out the window. There was water everywhere. People were carrying young children over their shoulders to keep them out of the raging flood waters. My wife and I grabbed our three children and ran outside.

Raging flood waters

We joined a huge crowd rushing to board a military rescue helicopter, but there were simply too many people to save everyone. We had to prioritize – so women, children and the elderly filed into the helicopter with nothing but the clothes on their backs. There was no room to carry anything on board.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Zak
Dr. Arshad Durani vaccinates a child against diseases that are common after major emergencies.

The moment the waters receded, I contacted UNICEF and began to report the needs of the children in the community. I then received medicine from the World Health Organization and began providing free medical services to anyone in need.

My wife and children returned a few days ago and are now sifting through the wreckage of our home, trying to make at least part of it liveable again. Not all was lost. My children were thrilled to find our two pet parrots alive and well.

Disease ‘a big concern’

I am relieved to be back at work, now leading UNICEF’s vaccination campaign in Charsaddah. We are working to prevent the spread of disease – a very big concern after such a catastrophe.

UNICEF is also taking the lead in providing clean water, sanitation and nutritional support to millions of flood-affected families in northern Pakistan.

The deluge was mighty enough to destroy bridges, schools, roads and thousands of homes. But it couldn’t – and will never – bend my determination to improve the lives of children.



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