Mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

It is a dis­trict blighted by poverty, dis­ease and nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. Now, thanks to three young samaritans, the area’s first-ever health cen­tre has just opened, bring­ing hope to 650,000 peo­ple, finds out Colin Drury

Friday - - Contents -

Three stu­dents from Birm­ing­ham, UK, bring hope to 650,000 peo­ple in Kashmir, Pak­istan.

Over 800 peo­ple have been treated at the cen­tre since it opened in Septem­ber

W hen Has­san* first heard his 11-yearold daugh­ter cry­ing, he knew it was se­ri­ous. But after rush­ing out­side to see what was wrong, he re­alised her con­di­tion could be fa­tal. It was a warm Septem­ber day and Aye­sha* had been play­ing out­side her home in Pak­istan-ad­min­is­tered Kashmir when she’d run into a small clump of grass after her ball. In her ex­cite­ment, she didn’t spot a deadly snake coiled there and stepped on its tail. The rep­tile’s re­ac­tion was swift, sink­ing its fangs into the lit­tle girl’s an­kle be­fore slith­er­ing away.

By the time Has­san reached her, Aye­sha’s an­kle was al­ready swelling. “Baba [fa­ther],” she said, cry­ing in pain, “I can’t feel my leg.”

It wasn’t clear what sort of snake had bit­ten her, but most at­tacks in the Kashmir re­gion can be put down to the highly dan­ger­ous Le­van­tine viper. She needed anti-venom or there was a risk she might die. How quickly she needed this would de­pend on how much poi­son en­tered the body and how the body re­acted to it. Some peo­ple die within hours of a snake bite. Oth­ers sur­vive with­out ever hav­ing anti-venom but, gen­er­ally, doc­tors ad­vise ad­min­is­ter­ing anti-venom as soon as pos­si­ble.

Has­san knew – as the peo­ple of his vil­lage, Pathan Khan in the Sudhnoti dis­trict, had known for decades – the near­est place to get anti-venom was Is­lam­abad, some 100km away. But, like most peo­ple in this im­pov­er­ished moun­tain re­gion, he had no way of get­ting her there. The fam­ily didn’t have a car, nor the money for a taxi. Emer­gency ser­vices would not make the jour­ney along the per­ilous ru­ral roads for a sin­gle snake bite. So the fa­ther did the only thing he could think of: he

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