GE Leader Leverages Doctor’s Degree and Vacation Time to Treat Those Devastated by Catastrophic Pakistan Flooding
November 21, 2022
Since 2016, Dr. Mazhar Qureshi, has served as the Country Manager for GE Healthcare in Pakistan. But for a week in early October, he leaned on his training as a medical doctor to help people devastated by this summer’s unprecedented flooding.
He coordinated with a charity operating in the Sindh Province interior in the Indus River valley, a region that had been particularly badly affected.
The senior member of GE Healthcare a resident of Islamabad flew to the city of Sukkur to reach the area where he volunteered, and said it is almost impossible to comprehend the scope of loss and destruction that has affected 33 million people in the country.
“There were huge areas of farmland under 12 feet of water. You look around and it seems you are on a large lake or a river, but it’s not. There is fertile farmland beneath, roads beneath.
“There were many houses completely demolished or badly damaged; people without enough food, without shelter; some sleeping under the open sky, many others living in tents and camps established by aid organizations,” he said.
During the week, Dr. Qureshi spent three days on a boat with another doctor and two paramedics, traveling to villages isolated by the flooding bringing medicines and medical supplies. The other two days he worked alongside two paramedics at different displacement camps.
“We saw a lot of water-borne diseases like typhoid, dengue fever and malaria. Also food poisoning and gastrointestinal issues, and lots of skin diseases. Almost every person we saw had a fever. Many had diarrhea.”
During the evenings and in the days since his return, Dr. Qureshi has worked with local experts and health officials on two longer-term projects. The first seeks to address the precarious health condition of many mothers and children by developing a healthcare delivery model for the impacted communities to protect mother and child health.
The second project seeks to “develop an indigenous recipe for a nutritious food supplement that could be prepared locally and supplied to the kids and mothers in affected flood areas to prevent malnutrition, particularly as the winter is around the corner.”
Dr. Qureshi’s week of volunteering comes as part of a broader GE effort to support Pakistan. The GE Foundation made a donation of US$ 100,000 to support the work of Americares, a healthcare-focused disaster relief organization that is working to restore operations at more than 20 health facilities in in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Province in northwest Pakistan.
As well, GE employees from around the globe have supported relief efforts through the foundation’s one-to-one Matching Gifts Program.
“I wanted to do something for my own people, my fellow countrymen,” he said. “I had some annual leave pending and thought this would be the best use of that time.”
Stories of suffering and loss were common, including one, that he found particularly poignant. Two sisters, about eight and two years old, came to the clinic looking for help. They were alone, after their mother died in the flooding and their father had failed to return after six days from a trip to a neighboring town. They had hardly eaten during that time and didn’t know what to do. “These two girls really broke my heart,” he said.
Hopeful stories also were common he said, including one involving a paramedic that Dr. Qureshi worked with.
“His house had been destroyed; his family was living in a refugee camp; and still, every morning, he came and volunteered, and continues to do so, keeping me updated by sending pictures of his work every morning. That is inspiring to me.”