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
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