No longer the rich man’s disease

By Zubeida Mustafa

70-30-12-1992There was a time when diabetes mellitus was regarded as the rich man’s disease. Not so any more. In fact, the data collected by epidemiologists indicate that today there is a higher incidence of this disorder in the developing countries.

Dr Peter Bennett, who is the head of the Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institute of Health, USA, has been investigating the prevalence of diabetes among the Pima Indians in America. His studies have extended.to other societies as well. “Surveys conducted over the last 15 to 20 years give very clear evidence that diabetes has been on the rise in the Third World,” Dr Bennett told me recently. He was in Karachi to attend the Regional Congress of the International Diabetes Federation. Continue reading “No longer the rich man’s disease”

Gift of Life

By Zubeida Mustafa

69-27-11-1992Two hundred children in Britain who faced certain death from liver failure are alive today and leading a normal, healthy life. They owe their recovery to the miracle of transplantation: the technology that allows surgeons to graft wholesome organs from one person to another.

Behind every milestone in medical science there is invariably a human story of sustained commitment and caring effort. In the case of these 200 British children the man who has made liver transplantation possible is Sir Roy Calne, a pioneer in the field of transplantology. A professor of surgery in the Cambridge University and president of the. International Transplantation Society, Dr Calne has contributed to the science of transplantation by his research on the immuno-suppressive drugs, without which no organ graft can be successful.

The defence mechanism of the human body normally ensures that it rejects foreign objects, which include organs taken from another person. Hence the use of drugs to suppress the immune reactions but in such measured doses that infections do not kill the patient. Continue reading “Gift of Life”

Organ transplantation has come to stay -Dr Adib Rizvi

By Zubeida Mustafa

68-04-08-1992a
Dr Adib Rizvi

In the early 1970s a magistrate from the interior of Sindh died of kidney failure in Civil Hospital, Karachi. This should normally not have merited a mention, especially twenty years later. Nearly 10,000 people in Pakistan come down with kidney failure every year.

But Mr Shaikh’s death, that was the magistrate’s name, proved to be an event of far-reaching consequences. In those days there were no facilities in Karachi for dialysis (let alone transplantation) — the only process by which the life of a patient of end-stage renal failure can be sustained. Mr Shaikh was sent to London where he was dialysed for a few weeks until his budget was exhausted. He was sent home with the false assurance that he was cured. He returned to Pakistan very pleased with himself looking forward to a new life. He brought as a token of his gratitude a small gift of handkerchiefs for the urologist who had attended to him in Karachi. Continue reading “Organ transplantation has come to stay -Dr Adib Rizvi”

Healthy tips

By Zubeida Mustafa

NANHAY DOCTOR by Iftikhar Ahmad. Illustrated by Nigar Nazar. Published by UNICEF, Pakistan. 1992.

67-17-07-1992With the changing concepts of health care — there is now greater stress on health education and preventive medicine — the need to teach people the basic principles of hygiene, nutrition and immunisation can hardly be overemphasised. In fact the sooner this process of health education and information begins, the better it is.

In this context, UNICEF’s Nanhay Doctor could not have been more Continue reading “Healthy tips”

Increased funding amid high scepticism over real progress

By Zubeida Mustafa

36-15-07-1988GIVEN the public outcry against the government’s failure to invest adequately in the social development of the people, the authorities in Pakistan have become more wary about making loud pronouncements about their commitment to the social sectors. What better occasion would they have of speaking about this commitment and receiving media publicity than the time of the presentation of the budgets — federal and provincial. Hence, it was no surprise that in the budget season this year each and every finance minister spoke in exaggerated terms about the social sector being his government’s major priority.

But the problem with budget speeches is that they are accompanied by budget documents and preceded by the Economic Survey which do not always substantiate the official claims. This year too the provincial governments have attempted to focus on health and education, which are central to any programme of human resource development. Although there has been an overall increase in the budgets for these two sectors, one cannot but feel sceptical about the progress that will actually be made. Continue reading “Increased funding amid high scepticism over real progress”

The status of Women

By Zubeida Mustafa

65-05-06-1992The women’s movement in Pakistan (I use the term for want of a more appropriate one) has lost its earlier vitality. The various organisations which came together under the umbrella of the Women’s Action Forum to take up cudgels against an Establishment determined to supress the female identity, have gone their separate ways.

This is distressing because a lot of work still remains to be done to raise the status of women. Admittedly, enormous progress has been made by a small minority of the female population in the country. In the last decade and a half since the international women’s year in 1975, women have achieved what was unheard of before. The number of girls enrolled in primary schools and in the universities has doubled and the female literacy rate has gone up by five percentage points in the last decade from 16 to 21 per cent. Even the labour force participation ratio of women has risen from three per cent to twelve per cent in 1981-1991. Health-wise women’s status has improved even though marginally, and the sex ratio has risen from 90 (for 100 men) to 92. Continue reading “The status of Women”

Guess who came for breakfast?

By Zubeida Mustafa

64-26-05-1992  A few weeks ago we had some jninvited guests for breakfast. They were masked and armed and the breakfast they took was most unhealthy — gulab jamuns and Coca Cola. They also took away whatever cash they could lay their hands on and some valuables — to use the crime reporter’s terminology. But the most precious thing they stole was my peace of mind.

If there is one word to describe my experience of this armed robbery, it is “bizarre”. Of course I also felt terrified, but that came much later.

It all happened early in the morning, which is the worst time for such unwholesome intrusions — not that other times are better. In the morning your senses are not fully awake — apart from the fact that one is not even properly dressed to receive visitors, including the unwanted ones. Continue reading “Guess who came for breakfast?”

Privatisation of higher education

By Zubeida Mustafa

The Pakistan government is considering the privatisation of the universities. The new education policy, which has been on the anvil for an inexplicably long time, is expected to lay down the guidelines for the establishment of private universities and colleges.

This step is being taken at the prodding of the World Bank which perceives privatisation as the magic cure for all economic ills. Being totally dependent on the loans it receives from the aid-giving agencies, the Pakistan government feels it has no other option but to obey the Bank’s edict. But will this solve the problems the country faces in the higher education sector? Continue reading “Privatisation of higher education”

What ails educational publishing in Pakistan?

By Zubeida Mustafa

62-25-02-1992Many of the imported globes and atlases being sold in Pakistan have the words “Disputed Territory” or simply “DT” overstamped on the spot showing Kashmir. What is strange is that the authorities’ sensitivity to cartographical precision does not extend to the text6ooks being published by their own Textbook Boards.

Just pick up any Social Studies or Pakistan Studies book being taught in the schools in Sindh and you can consider your child to be fortunate if the maps are correctly drawn. More often than not our cartographers are fond of showing a common border between Pakistan and what was the USSR until December!

That is not all. The profusion of errors and distortions in the books is appalling. The absence of an imaginative approach makes the text not only dull but also in many cases conceptually beyond the child’s comprehension. The poor quality of the printing and paper of the Board’s publications is sure to kill whatever interest a student might have in his studies. Continue reading “What ails educational publishing in Pakistan?”

Population welfare: the plan that failed

By Zubeida Mustafa

Recently, the Washington-based Population Crisis Committee released its 1992 edition of World Access to Birth Control. It is not too flattering to Pakistan which is ranked a lowly 55th among 95 developing countries in terms of availability of modern birth control information and services. What is more shocking than the low score (37/100) is the fact that Pakistan lags .behind countries considered more backward.

71-09-02-1993B

In South Asia, Pakistan ranks the lowest compared to Sri Lanka (80), Bangladesh (77), India (73) and Nepal (50) in providing contraceptive options, competent services and outreach of the population programme. Continue reading “Population welfare: the plan that failed”