PAKISTAN - Zaiba is eight years old. She wears a Shalwar Kameez of flowers. Dark blue like school ink, light blue like the sky, purple like grapes and small green leaves, pale against the petals. She covers her head with a scarf of red and purple in narrow stripes running lengthways. She is quietly proud that she has just started school, here in the camp in the Khairpur road just outside Sukkur in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
“What is your favourite subject at school, Zaiba? Is it Sindhi, Urdu, English?” “English” she replies, chewing on the hem of her scarf. “Can you say some words in English?” She nods, “What is your name?” she asks.
“Wonderful. Dave, Dave,” replies her inquisitive visitor. “Dave Toycen, head of World Vision Canada. Counting and alphabet? One, two, three, four, five. A, B, C”.
I would like an education, I will fight with poverty through education. I want to be a doctor
More questions from Dave. Zaiba answers, “We were just cooking when the floods came and we ran for our lives. What did I feel like? At that moment I was feeling that we will not live, we will die”. Zaiba shakes her head and uses her scarf to hide her face. She does not want to talk about her memories of the flood. “No, I forget each and everything; I don’t feel scared any more”, although clearly she does.
“Zaiba, what would you hope for in the future?” asks Dave. “I would like an education, I will fight with poverty through education. I want to be a doctor”. Bakhtabar, Zaiba’s mother never had the chance of an education. “I didn’t have anything, she must have something,” she says.
Pakistan needs women doctors. In the basic health clinic that World Vision helps to run not far away in Khairpur, Dr. Arbila, a lady gynaecologist, tells us that pregnant women are very weak because of chronic malnutrition. Now as a consequence of the flooding they are even more compromised.
...if we give oral rehydration solution for diarrhea and dehydration, the mothers lack clean water so they can’t use it
““I have just seen a woman who is nine months pregnant but her baby is the size of six months. I want to treat them, give them food and folic acid.” She has to break off; there are more women to be examined, blood pressure and histories to be taken, more pregnancies complicated by malnutrition and anemia.
Dave sums up.
"There are layers to this problem. We have underweight mums and underweight children, problems of chronic malnutrition that go back far before the flood. The doctor tells me that now on top of it with this catastrophe they are getting less food, less water and it’s a recipe for disaster. She says we are lacking therapeutic feeding and even if we give oral rehydration solution for diarrhea and dehydration, the mothers lack clean water so they can’t use it… we just keep coming up against barriers. There has to be a strategy to deal with the issues of poverty”.
One important element in World Vision’s response to the multiple needs for food, water and shelter is to set up Child Friendly Spaces as well. Not only does this provide opportunity for psychosocial support and trauma counselling, it is in one such space that Zaiba has had her first chance to go to school.
Her mother, Bakhtaba told us, “Zaiba has always fought to go to school like her brother. I had nothing; my dream is that she gets an education to become a doctor.” That is Zaiba’s dream, to be a doctor.
First published on September 8, 2010, 14:53. Last updated on September 8, 2010, 15:01.