My arrival in DMJ was met with apprehension. There were concerns that the purpose of my visit may be misunderstood and this could unduly strain the projects relationship with authorities who are generally supportive of the work and profile of the project. So despite ‘having a foot in the door’ I had to maintain a high level of discretion. That’s not so easy when your carrying a Canon 5D Mark II with a cross strap and wearing hiking boots. Although the rest of my attire did conform, black long sleeved kurta [shirt] accompanied by a black chaddar [shawl].
I was advised to remain detached especially when visiting the nursery. I remember the words being spoken but only understood there depth when I found myself stopping by the IPD Ward for the third time in the space of two hours.
In IPD I met Shaban. Shaban’s condition was critical. Diagnosed with pneumonia, meningitis and cerebal malaria. In the photograph below oxygen is being administered. I am told his condition continues to deteriorate. That evening I head back to the ward with the team. Shaban’s bed is empty, which to me made sense as I assumed he’s been sent home. I wasn’t ready to hear the next words uttered to me. I enquire “has Shaban been sent home”, the nurse replies matter of factly “he has expired”, a term used in Pakistan for someone who has departed – died.
Abdul Shakoor is in the bed next to Shaban’s. Abdul is severely malnourished, his condition is not stable. He has had a blood transfusion, feeding via a nasal gastric tube and wrapped in survival blanket to maintain his body temperature. If his body temperature were to drop it would be near impossible to bring it back up. Abdul’s mother also shows signs of being malnourished, she sits with her son looking on with hope and trepidation.
We head out the following day to a basic health care unit [BHU] in Dera Allah Yar, approximately 20km from DMJ. We are stopped at one of the check points as our security detail has not arrived. Once we arrive at the medical facility I am surprised by the number of people queuing hapazarly for a slip to enter the process of being attended too. Some infants are being carried by children barely able to carry them. A young girl informs my translator [Sanobar Khan] that the mothers of these infants are not allowed to leave their homes so infants are bought to the clinic by their siblings or young aunts.
Inayatullah Saleem [below] has been bought to the health care unit by his young aunt Amna. He is three years old but is not yet walking. I enquire into his condition and am told that he weighed 8kg the previous month and has since gained 0.4kg. He is given a weeks supply of PlumpyNut, which in such rural, remote and isolated areas is difficult to monitor whether this is being administered to the child or given to the father who is the main bread winner, as his well being is viewed as being paramount.
As human beings we are compelled to defragment situations in to bite size portions so that we can digest and accept them. This is how I processed some of the expressions of these beautiful Balouch children. Their huge eyes drawing you in to examine and question an existence with no modern amenities. The harshness of their reality of working the fields along side parent’s, siblings and relatives is so painfully transparent.
In the morning I leave for Chaman, with an overnight stay in Sukkar and flying via Karachi to Quetta. From Quetta it’s a three hour drive through rocky and rugged terrain to Chaman, East Baluchistan on the border of Afghanistan.