The following article written by Engineer Iqbal A. Khan gives a very good overview of what services Edhi Welfare Trust is providing. It gives us a glimpse into the magnitude of the work that is being done, and it should make us realize that it is truly an honor to have had someone such as Abdul Sattar Edhi sahab among us.
EDHI HOMES/APNA GHAR
Edhi Home also called as” Apna Ghar” (our home), is a home for the mentally ill, destitute, orphans and runaways. There are 13 such homes in the country out of which seven are in Karachi. About six thousand persons live in Edhi Homes. A destitute or homeless becomes a member of Edhi’s family once he enters its premises. All boarding, lodging, clothing, and logistic arrangements are entirely free. If a person dies within these homes, the burial arrangements are made by the Foundation according to the religious rites of the deceased (Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, or any other religion).
In Edhi Homes, there is a team of specialists to deal with particular problems of the residents. It is supported by a small staff. The residents are encouraged and trained to look after their personal needs themselves. This inculcates in them the spirit of self-help, and keeps them engaged in beneficial activities. In-charge of one of the Edhi Homes for the orphans and runaways, says” Encouraging children to do their own work gives them self-respect and makes them feel that the benefits they get in return are not charity but reward for their efforts”.
The Welfare Centres of the Foundation are located in all the big cities and towns of Pakistan. The prime function of these centres is to extend all services of the Foundation to the needy persons at their door-steps. Plans are under way to extend their numbers. Once these centres come into operation, ninety percent of Pakistan’s population is expected to be covered by the Foundation’s activities. These welfare centres act as “Service Counters” for the need of the suffering masses. They are constantly engaged in multifarious activities directly or indirectly benefiting the local community
HIGH-WAYS PROJECT ( 25 KILOMETER)
Under this project, it is planned to construct five hundred Edhi Centres in order to cover a sizeable population on all highways and major link-roads of Pakistan in a properly phased fashion. The existing centres provide first aid to accident victims and arrange for their speedy transfer to the nearby hospitals. More-over, these centres are being used for providing medical facilities in rural and semi-urban areas. Also they provide ambulance service at nominal charges, facility for vaccinating new-born babies and children against diseases, and other welfare services.
The dispensary and mobile dispensary at each centre cater for medical assistance to approximately two hundred and fifty patients daily.
On completion of the proposed project each Centre will have three ambulances, a four-bedded emergency unit, a permanent dispensary and a mobile dispensary for field operations. All Centres will be linked with wireless sets. Each centre is estimated to cost Rs. One million giving a total project cost of Rs. Five hundred million. Work has started on this project and sixty permanent and one hundred and twenty five temporary centres have already started functioning.
Work is also underway to include the establishment of additional Edhi Homes for the destitute, dispensaries, centres for rehabilitation of heroin addicts, ambulance centres and rural welfare centres. Acquisition of additional ambulance aircraft’s is also in hand to provide a speedy service between these centres.
Voluntary contributions in kind, which include clothing, edibles, medicines, dry rations are received throughout Edhi Centre’s network. Through voluntary contributions from Pakistan and abroad, Warehouses were established in big cities like Karachi, Islamabad, and Multan. Five of these Warehouses are kept ready round the clock with provision of tents, dry rations, bedding, blankets, baby milk powder, utensils, etc., to move into action immediately in times of emergencies.
These Warehouses deliver items to refugee camps, at the site of any natural calamity, riots, fires and accidents, etc. Through these Warehouses regular supplies have been provided to refugees from Kashmir, Afghanistan, Bosnia and countries like Somalia, Kuwait, Bangladesh and flood affected areas in Pakistan etc.
FIELD AMBULANCE SERVICES
Thousands of persons are disabled or killed in minor or major road accidents throughout Pakistan. After any major accident, the seriously injured persons lie on the site for several hours waiting for shifting to the nearest hospital. Often, delay and apathy cause loss of valuable lives, leaving many others injured, crippled and handicapped.
Edhi Foundation has raised the largest single fleet of Ambulances in the country with an un-paralleled record of quick response for the affectees of any disaster. Its nation-wide network equipped with the latest communication system now covers the remotest areas of Pakistan. A fleet of over four hundred ambulances, field mobile units and rescue units, which comprise this network, are maintained in a state of readiness to meet any emergency in the shortest possible time anywhere in Pakistan.
AIR AMBULANCE SERVICES
The Foundation has set up a helicopter and fixed wing aircraft-based emergency service centred at Karachi to supplement the field services. Two aeroplanes and one helicopter have already been acquired. The Foundation plans to attract more funds for acquisition of five additional aircraft/helicopters, within the next three years. Pakistan Army Aviation has already trained two pilots. Additional assistance on subsequent training of pilots will be requested from time to time. Oil companies have expressed willingness to provide fuel and lubricants on gratis basis. The Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan has waived all licensing, registration, and other fees for the Air Ambulance Service. Wider coverage and the following goals are being achieved with the assistance of Edhi Air Ambulances:
- Evacuation of serious casualties from the sites of accidents, riots and calamity affected areas.
- Transportation of Physicians and Specialists to remote areas. Experience indicates that even volunteer surgeons cannot be expected to travel twelve to eighteen hours by road as required in many cases. An air ambulance addresses this problem and enables full utilisation of the volunteer capacity available to the Foundation. Inter-hospital transfer of patients requiring specialist’s treatment and immediate attention.
- Quick transportation of blood and human vital organs.
- Search and rescue of stranded people in deserts, mountains, floods and coastal areas.
- Geological surveys of underground water in the famine-stricken areas of Thar, Chohistan and Utthal.
- Medical and other assistance to companies/organisations carrying out exploration/research in remote areas of the country.
- Food supplies for stranded people on ships, and in areas affected by wars and calamities.
MARINE AND COASTAL SERVICES
Having developed the nation-wide network of ground ambulances supported by Air ambulance, Edhi Foundation has set up a separate establishment to extend its services in coastal areas as well.
Edhi Marine service caters for the following:
- Recovering dead bodies in cases of drowning through properly framed divers.
- Food provision to the entrapped ships at Arabian Coast.
- Establishment of watch towers with provision of life jackets and inflatable
- Rescue services in rivers, lakes and dams of the country.
- Advanced warning signals for tourists in coastal areas
BLOOD AND DRUG BANKS
Provision of blood in order to save human lives remains an essential element of emergency services. In major accidents, natural calamities and bomb blasts, etc., blood is supplied to the needy on an emergency basis.
All welfare centres of major cities in Pakistan regularly keep an updated list of donors of all blood groups and conduct campaigns for enlisting more donors for collection of blood.
Blood is pooled in hospitals from the volunteer donors and is provided free of cost in cases of heart surgeries and other major operations to poor patients. Two Blood Banks, one at Karachi and the other at Mirpur, have proper facilities for storing and screening blood, from where hundreds of pints of screened blood is being regularly dispensed to the government hospitals.
CANCER RESEARCH HOSTEL, KARACHI
During 1980, realising the needs of poor cancer patients in the city who were pouring in from up-country the Foundation developed a separate project for the establishment of a cancer hostel near Agha Khan Hospital, Karachi. Suitable premises have been purchased to house 50 cancer Patients with treatment facilities. This Centre acts as an extension bay of Radiotherapy and Oncology Department of Jinnah Post-Graduate Medical Centre, and provides terminal care and treatment to poor cancer patients of both sexes of all ages with indoor and outdoor facilities. The radio-therapy and diagnostic oncology is taken care of by the experts of Jinnah Post-Graduate Medical Centre, while all other remaining medical facilities are provided within the Cancer Research Hostel. Plans are under way to extend this facility with an additional one hundred and fifty beds at Karachi. Poor patients who cannot bear their travel expenses are provided railway tickets making it easier for them to reach the cancer hostel.
MISSING PERSONS SERVICE
Because of social problems a large number of children leave their homes or get separated from their families during emergencies. Similarly, mentally handicapped people who can’t get back to their homes, wander around the streets. Edhi Foundation either uses its own wireless network, state radio and T.V. channels or arranges local announcements, advertisements in the press, and thereby manages to return thousands of such people to their homes.
Similarly, unidentified dead bodies are kept in cold mortuaries and all efforts are made to identify the next of kin. This service is also available to Pakistanis living abroad and is being co-ordinated through Pakistan Embassies or offices of the Foundation abroad.
EDHI HOMES FOR SHELTER OF ANIMALS
Edhi Homes were originally meant to provide services to the distressed and ailing destitute. Soon, however, animals that were treated cruelly by their owners and had become lame or crippled or badly wounded, started ending up in Edhi Centres. These also include missing animals and unwanted house pets which have no other place to go except Edhi shelters. In view of the increasing number of such animals, Edhi Foundation established a separate treatment unit which has now grown up into a small zoo. Veterinary doctors look after these animals along with other volunteer staff at Super Highway, Karachi. In addition, another similar facility is established at Korangi, Karachi. These animals include peacocks, owls, deers, monkeys, horses, mules, cats, and a number of domestic birds.
GRAVE YARD SERVICES
Edlhi Foundation has the largest net-work for the burial of unclaimed and burials of dead bodies in Pakistan. Separate grave yards are established in cities like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and New York. Mr. Edhi, perhaps, holds the world record for giving the last prescribed bath (Ghusal) with his own hands to about 20,000 unclaimed dead bodies and for arranging their burial.
Metropolitan Corporations of all big cities in Pakistan like Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi have made annual contracts with Edhi Foundation for burial of unidentified dead bodies recovered from drowning, homicides, and accidents.
Coffin cloth and coffin boxes are provided free of cost to those families who cannot afford or manage burial rites themselves. Non-Muslims are provided services according to their own religious rites with the assistance of a church or local temple. In addition to the above, large air conditioned cold mortuaries have been established at Karachi to keep unidentified bodies for a couple of days, and perform burial rites if the next of kin is not traceable. Edhi grave yard services also provide facilities for burial and transportation of dead bodies from overseas.
EDHI EMERGENCY POSTS
Edhi Emergency Posts have been established at National and Provincial Capitals including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Multan. The aims these posts are to:
- Reach the site of emergency within minutes
- Launch mass campaign against social evils like Narcotics, Aids, and awareness for Diarrhoea, Immunisation and Family Planning programmes etc.
- Provide routine emergency coverage to public gatherings and processions.
- Act as a focal point for civil defence in time of need.
- Provide guidance to the passers-by in locating their required address.
- Assist illiterate people for filling in different forms pertaining to Banking and Identity Cards etc. and help them in letter-writing.
- Organize local volunteers in social welfare activities.
- Extend other services of Edhi Foundation to door-steps of the needy families.
Following services besides legal aid are provided by Edhi Foundation to prisoners in different jails and remand homes
- Food supplies. (Borstal and Central Jails)
- Medical Facilities. (Karachi Central Jail)
- Gifts (on national events) on yearly basis.
- Distribution of books and stationery.
- Recreation. (sports, TV, etc.)
- Provision of items of daily use like wall clocks, articles of clothing and blankets, etc.
- Ambulance services.
- Securities and bonds for release of prisoners involved in minor crimes.
At most of the emergency Edhi Centres, “Jhoolas” (baby cradles) are installed where unwanted infants can be left. These abandoned babies are then taken into custody and given shelter in Edhi Homes. Although initially Edhi was subject to a lot of pressure from several quarters on initiating Jhoola service, gradually the idea caught on.
Now people even come forward to hand over the babies themselves to officials at the Edhi Centres. Such infants are thereafter given in the care of suitable deserving families not having children of their own, for adoption. Mrs. Bilquis Edhi, the head of this service through a centralized system checks the credentials of the adopting parents and conducts a regular follow-up.
Babies left over in garbage dumps outside Karachi are air-lifted to the central nursery located in Karachi where medical and nursing care is provided before adoption. All documentation’s of this service are kept confidential in order to save the child from facing social problems afterwards.
Edhi Foundation has been providing services to the refugees of different countries forced to take shelter in Pakistan. Refugees belonging to the following countries are among the beneficiaries:
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CENTRES
The work of Edhi Foundation has extended beyond Pakistan. Currently, branches of Edhi International Foundation are providing regular services in New York, Ontario, Dacca, Tokyo, Sydney, London, Dubai, while preliminary work for establishing branches in Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Yemen and Russia has been completed. These International Community Centers look after the welfare of Asians abroad.
Their activities include burial of dead bodies, financial and moral support to the needy people visiting foreign countries for medical treatment, assistance in restoring lost and runaway children to their families, co-ordination and distribution of relief aid outside Pakistan, and drug abuse rehabilitation service.
COLLABORATION WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
Besides running its own fleet of ambulances, Edhi Foundation has been supporting other government institutions and non-governmental organizations in a variety of ways, keeping in view the larger interest of the masses, such as donating ambulances to:
- Ministry of Health, Sindh Ojha TB Sanatorium, Karachi.
- Civil Hospital, Hyderabad.
- TB. Centre, Kotri.
- Liaquat Medical Hospital,’Jamshoro.
- Trust for Destitute People, Hyderabad.
- Memon Hospital, Hyderabad.
- Government Hospital, Shikarpur