Making a Difference in Darfur

Maj Dr. Amna Malik shares her experiences in Darfur, Sudan
The title, ‘PEARL of UNAMID’ has been awarded to Pakistan Field Hospital in Sudan by United Nations African Union Hybrid Mission  n Darfur (UNAMID). This honour has been earned by Pakistani doctors for their compassion, determination and eminent professionalism that reflect the true vision of our Quaid:

“Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed people of the world and in upholding the principles of United Nations Charter.”
    —    Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
It is a matter of immense pride for any female Medical Officer of Pak Army to make the merit for a foreign course or mission abroad and I consider myself very fortunate to render the medical services in Pak Field Hospital-11 at Darfur, Sudan, which is most well reputed in higher echelons and troops of different nations in UNAMID. My first ever mission: travelling to Africa was like a dream come true and wearing the Blue Beret for the very first time was an extraordinary feeling. Not only was I feeling passionate but could also see the exorbitant morale of my fellow colleagues and troops.
Despite the long journey to Darfur, everyone was thrilled and exhilarated as the vehicle passed through the streets of Al-Fashir. The sight of women and children standing on the roadside captivated me. To my felicity, they immediately recognized the green flag and started clapping, waving and screaming, “Pakistan, Pakistan.” 
Sudan, a country marred by turmoil and inexplicable genocide, faces another crisis for democratic revival. Deployment of Pak Field Hospital-11 took place when the environment on the political horizon started changing rapidly and uncertainty prevailed. Pak Field Hospital-11 is the only Level II Plus hospital in UNAMID that has been sharing the burden of Level IV hospital in Khartoum with minimal referrals. It comprises twenty doctors (fifteen male and five female doctors) and three highly qualified nurses rendering their services in all specialties, like General Surgery, Internal Medicine, Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Isolation Wards, Gynecology, Eye, ENT, Radiology, and  Pharmacy. Pak Army doctors are playing a significant role in providing 24/7 treatment to the patients of not only the staff of UN but also to the local Sudanese on humanitarian grounds in case of emergency and during free medical camps.
Pak Field Hospital–11 is prestigious as it  possesses state-of-the-art and modern diagnostic Electro Medical Equipment, namely, Digital  X-ray machines, ventilators, ECG Machines, Cardiac Monitors, Suction Machines, Anesthesia Machines, Ultrasound Machines, Defibrillators, Field Blood Banks, Autoclaves and a latest Magneto Therapy machine, which is a wonder in a true sense in the field of physiotherapy, along with battle hardened medics and fully equipped ambulances.
In the Level II Plus hospital, patients from different nations like Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan, Senegal, China, Ethiopia, Zambia, Malaysia, Bhutan, Nepal along with local Sudanese are provided with case-specific treatment, and high quality care and medicines. Many diseases like Measles, Mumps, Hepatitis, Gastroenteritis, Tuberculosis, Malaria, Typhoid, Jaundice, Meningitis, road traffic accidents, ENT and eye injuries are managed on daily basis by the doctors of Pak Field Hospital-11. It elates me as a Pak Army doctor when these patients are discharged from the hospital fully recovered, with smiles on their faces and prayers on their lips for everyone who took care of them.
Being the only Level II Plus hospital in UNAMID, it is unique in its functionality and dynamics. Patients are often transferred from various places to Pak Field Hospital-11 and I remember, one day when I was performing the duty of a Medevac Officer, I received a patient named Captain Jeanne Marcel from Rwanda, suffering from acute lower abdominal pain. Surgeons decided to go for an emergency appendectomy. The patient was not ready and was frightened of undergoing surgery. I was called by the administration to resolve the issue. When I saw the officer she was crying, so I sat beside her and counseled her. She asked, “Will I die, I have not met my children for many months and I don’t want to die here.” I assured her that she was in safe hands and would not die and comforted her further until she was ready for the surgery. She looked at me with great credence, wiped her tears and went into the operation theater confidently; the operation was successful. The next day she was walking, talking and eating. She thanked me and said, “Thumbs up to you and all the doctors and nurses who have looked after me in my most difficult time.” She wrote my name and my fellow colleagues’ names in her diary so that she may never forget to pray for us. This brings in effable triumph to me that Pak Field Hospital-11 stands out not only in providing quality medical and rehabilitative care but also in gaining the trust of the patients by scrupulous counseling.
The life threatening diseases, Protein Energy Malnutrition and Iron Deficiency Anemia, are most commonly seen in children, depictive of poor socio-economic condition. I had a chance to interview a local female while examining her anemic, malnourished and underweight child. To my surprise, she was a mother of seven children, her husband was a laborer earning only ten dollars per month, living in a single-room house and severely deprived of basic necessities of life like food and clean water. I managed her and all her children in Pak Field Hospital-11. 
Another such case worth mentioning is of a local 11-year-old orphan girl named Babulgina, who was brought to the hospital in a very bad condition with only 12-kg weight, suffering from severe Protein Energy Malnutrition associated with fits and a feeble pulse. she was unconscious, emaciated and hardly breathing. She was treated by a team of skilled doctors, nurses and paramedics, treated with high quality medicines and rehabilitative care by the Pak Army contingent. It was so heartening to see that with the combined efforts of everyone the little orphan girl started to recover slowly and showed signs of life by opening her eyes and smiling just after few days at the hospital. When she was discharged, her mother had praises and prayers for the ‘healing hands’ who are genuinely making a difference in Darfur by providing medical services and also by spreading peace and bringing improvement to the life of the underprivileged. HH

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