St. Elizabeth Hospital gives emergency healthcare to flood-affected people

Columban Fr. Robert McCulloch is the Board Chairman of St Elizabeth Hospital in Hyderabad, Pakistan. He explains how the hospital have been providing free healthcare to flood- affected people in Pakistan.

One-third of Pakistan is still flooded after the above-record rainfall in August. Sindh, the southern province in Pakistan, had 442.8mm of rain in August which is 726% higher than the monthly average. The monsoon failed last year in Sindh so the land was baked hard and dry and the monsoon rain gathered into an instant flood. The Indus River is in highest full flood and has drowned cities and towns and villages.

This is a huge financial blow to Pakistan. In the last nine months, it has been trying to escape the threat of economic breakdown and to deal with an unsustainable debt burden due to oil and ING import costs. The floods have destroyed its agricultural base at least for one year.

The human cost cannot be calculated: the crisis of more than 30,000,000 people having to flee their homes, their fear about what will remain of the little they have when they return to their homes, their need for immediate shelter, the lack of regular food supply, and getting good sustained emergency health care.

The poor suffer. The government is depending on international assistance. The army is mobilized for rescue work and for food distribution when it arrives. Pakistan’s Federal Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said on September 7th that Pakistan needs immediate urgent healthcare assistance to deal with the emergency situation.

St Elizabeth Hospital Hyderabad is responding through its well-organized Mobile Medical Outreach Programme MMOP to this healthcare emergency in southern interior Sindh along the Indus River. Between August 29th and September 24th, the doctors and nurses in the Mobile Medical Outreach have seen and cared for 8806 sick people, from 24 different villages, all who have received free medicines. Serious medical and surgical cases and pregnant women in the final stages before delivery are taken to St Elizabeth Hospital and admitted for free care. The two hospital doctors in the MMOP team are Muslim and the five male and female nurses are Christian. The sick people they treat and care for are Muslim, Christian and Hindu. All are equally poor and deprived. Yesterday, 291 sick Christian patients were cared for in the ruins of their village. Their village was not destroyed by the floods but by government action in 2021 because it was declared to be illegally built. Now the floods have swept away everything from the nothing they had left. Statistics cannot describe the real situation of people in grinding poverty, flood destruction and despair.

Every day the MMOP medical team is going out approximately 30 kms from Hyderabad to settlements where people need emergency care. Many have moved into shacks on the roads because their villages remain submerged. The common medical issues are skin diseases, scabies, eye and ear infections, gastroenteritis, fever, chest infections, infected cuts, heat exhaustion, malaria and increasing dengue fever. All dengue cases are taken to St Elizabeth Hospital for free admission and urgent treatment. At the same time, the MMOP team is giving out bottled drinking water and mosquito nets to try and control the malaria and dengue threat. Each day, the 4-wheel off-road vehicle used for the Mobile Medical Outreach work is filled with medicines, drinking water and mosquito nets. The MMOP team only returns to the hospital when all this has been given out.

Through St Elizabeth Hospital and its Mobile Medical Outreach Programme MMOP, the Catholic Church is in the forefront of responding to this huge medical emergency in Hyderabad and interior Sindh. St Elizabeth was there during the flood of 2010 which ravaged Pakistan and Sindh although that flood was less disastrous than this year.

St Elizabeth Hospital’s costs for this emergency healthcare are enormous and are outside our annual budget. We receive no government assistance although the Pakistani government authorities recognize the front-line work we do. We need immediate funds to buy medicines and mosquito nets. The vehicle for MMOP is eight years old. I do not know how much longer it can last in the present crisis response situation, but it must be replaced as soon as possible to enable St Elizabeth Hospital to continue its emergency medical care at the same level at least until December this year.

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Your generous donations to our Pakistan Floods Appeal will help St Elizabeth's hospital continue to provide healthcare to people most affected by the recent flooding.

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