22 Dec 15 09 Jan 17

Pakistan: Caring for 'tiny' patients

Aisling Semple is working as a paediatrician in an MSF hospital, which looks after both newborn babies and malnourished children. Here she recounts her experience.

I arrived in Pakistan 6 weeks ago, and the past few weeks have been more overwhelming, challenging and heart-breaking than I ever could have imagined. 

Malnutrition due to poverty and poor education

It’s in a city called Quetta, in the West of Pakistan, very near to the Afghan border. MSF has the only inpatient nutrition programme in this region, with a population of over 13 million. Due to poverty and poor education, malnutrition is a huge issue.

Downstairs we keep babies under 6 months, where the mums sleep curled up in the cots next to their tiny babies. Upstairs there are two big wards for children over 6 months – mostly toddlers. Unlike every other hospital in the area, all our care is completely free. Here, we have a well-researched refeeding programme, where we slowly rebuild these babies’ strength.

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Providing high quality and holistic care

This story is one of the hundreds that I could tell, based on my experiences here over the past few weeks. Not all have such happy outcomes, and every day brings us new challenges and new heartbreak.

But we will keep striving to provide high quality and holistic care, free of charge, to every baby and child who crosses our door.

Every day, mothers and grandmothers approach me on the wards. They hold my hands and kiss my cheeks. They pull me towards their babies, smiling proudly. They chatter away in Pashto and Baloch, Urdu, Sindhi, Brahvi and Farsi. They laugh at me when I gesture that I can’t understand them. But I know what they are saying- they are saying thank you. I try to gesture that it’s not me, it’s the dedicated team of national staff here, and the support and generosity of strangers in far-away countries. 

It is your support that is allowing us to work out here- and with your support we are saving lives every day. 

find out more about our work in Pakistan