An illuminating discourse with its chief, Dr Syed Azizur Rab
A man with vision, commitment and dedication trying to rid the society from many an affliction so that the life span of pregnant mothers and the child Is healthier and useful for the society. This is how Dr Syed Azizur Rab can be described. A society degenerating or already half sunk in malaise, does require a messiah, is invariably in dire need of timely help, and when it finally comes, a ray of hope is rekindled for its reverting to sanity, safety and security. That in short is my opinion, at least is the story, woven around the women folks, victim of unfortunate neglect, deprived of their right to breath a healthy life. Luxuries is something far-fetched from them, elusive, and sort of dream, dreaded and ominous in character, but a gentle relief does starts to surface on the horizon when people like Azizur Rab, a medical practitioner by profession, who could have minted money since qualifying from the prestigious Dow Medical College of Karachi, now a university. Instead he chose to dedicate himself to uplift of the society.
His aim could have been multi-dimensional, and may perhaps still be, but for last many years, he has concentrated on an awareness campaign aimed at saving the lives of huge number of women folks, pregnant or nearing delivery. They are told to be conscious of their health, limit the number of births by linking them to longevity and healthy life. Simultaneously, the newborn too could be ensured of nutrient value. The exercise is aimed at widening the life span of human resource, so vital for the country and its progress. The phenomenon is not new to the world. Entire West, Japan, and even China and India, had tried this and benefited to a very large extent.
Way back since late 70s and 80s, Sanjay, elder son of slain Indian premier Indira Gandhi, had offered transistor radios as temptation to control births. His country benefited. India today is the second biggest country of the world in terms of area and population, which is over 1.3 billion. Sanjay perished in a plane crash, but the programme initiated by him, continued for long time. China too, bulging with countless heads, was forced to limit the number of family members by asking the couples to produce just one child, and has now liberalized the number to two for a family.
Dr Rab, contemporary of longest serving Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, Merajul Huda of Jamat I Islami, and Dr Pervez, former town nazim of Liaquatabad, has a clear perception. Talking to him was a delight, for discussion was informative, adding to your knowledge. I had the privilege of being part of such an awareness programme being carried out for nearly two years now in Rural Sindh, by world renowned child specialist Dr Ghaffar Billoo, and his prodigy Dr Nand Lal. It was, therefore, easier for me to comprehend his mission than n could normally be.
‘Why Greenstar?’ was my first salvo at him as we began conversing in his tastefully furnished office. Dr Rab’s answer was prompt and unambiguous. Star is on Pakistan flag, and green is our flag’s colour, apart from being the symbol of nature’s sprawling bounty, and country being an agrarian society, must play its due role towards making itself healthier, and happier. Obviously he had a clear perception of what he was doing. ‘We want it to be as lively and positive as possible, also easily understood so that the message reaches the targeted ones in simpler terms’ he said, feeling elated that the slogan turned out catchy and attractive.
It was instant success, because Pakistanis are all stars on their own merit and did deserve a healthier life, and livelier environment. Their household had to be greener like fields and pastures. Its full name is Greenstar Social Marketing Pakistan (Guarantee) Ltd. Obviously, it is a social welfare and marketing venture, aimed at educating people, affected by vitamin and other deficiencies, to live a happier life, simultaneously building resources to help gain strength and not bog down in the midst of unseen crisis.
Dilating on a subject of vital import for the country like us, where factors like poor literacy rate and poverty alleviation remains problematic, and where social sector is still to attract attention it deserved, Greenstar’s job becomes doubly important. But when attempts made to attack the issue, is backed with facts and figures, it does inject satisfaction in anyone’s mind. That does not mean that everything is rosier now—far from it. Some bold and courageous initiative has been taken by Dr Rab and his team of doctors, paramedics, volunteers etc, but the much needed support from authorities or those at the helm, needs to be raised to satisfactory levels
Greenstar, set up some quarters of a century ago, can look back with considerable satisfaction at its input for making the pregnant and would-be mothers realize their obligations towards their own health, which in turn is bound to benefit their families, areas they live in, and ultimately the society at large. He was happy that people in initial years of country’s existence were deeply aware of the problem. Late Mr Ayub Khan, as President of the country, initiated a population control programme, which paid dividends. Today this ratio has grown from 1.4 to 2.4 , obviously will have negative effect on nation’s goal to develop and progress speedily to catch up with developed world.
His organisation does get assistance from USAID, KFW bank of Germany, and other international organisations, but badly needs government support. Atleast a toll free line be given for people to reach their help line for guidance without being burdened with phone call costs, contraceptives in all their forms, to prevent frequent child births, vitamins D. calcium and iron deficiencies, so vital for pregnant women. While ladies are guided, male counselling is also being done to convince people that enough time lag should be there between childbirth. Frequent pregnancies destroyed mother’s health, and often death rate reaches alarming levels. That needs to be checked.
The organisation, Dr Rab revealed has services of 7000 doctors, and using container clinics. Forty feet long, equipped with necessary equipment for medical aid, then mobile services are available for urgent calls wherever needed on 7/24 basis, a term generally understood that it means seven days a week and round the clock. Door to door campaign is also done to reach maximum number of women and their males partners for counselling that limitless births would not only weaken the wives, could well ring alarm bells. Precautions are therefore a must. Medicines supplied by Green star are clearly marked –Not for Sale—to avoid its commercial exploitation.
Dr Rab narrated a harrowing incident as to how a Hindu girl Ganga, at very young age, had developed problems. Her urinary vein was stopped. She naturally smelled bad, was thrown out of house by her inlaws, placed in a stable when Greenstar deputed its doctors to operate and reopen her urinary vein. Her life was saved due to timely action. Similarly, small girls soon after reaching puberty age are sold for monetary gains to waderas or wealthy people. Such tendencies need to be stopped in which government had a major role to restore human dignity. Not only that schools and hospitals remain deserted in Sindh, and used for sheltering animals.
Greenstar’s efforts, Dr Rab, an extremely courteous and hospitable personality, enlightened with literary taste, disclosed that solar system placed for lighting the container clinics, or village dispensaries, are often deprived of facilities, which made their task doubly difficult. He said he often had to face embarrassment when talking to foreign donors who are keen to assist in their endeavour, but unhesitatingly ask whether the environment could be turned conducive to produce proper results. The question needs to be attended and answer found.
In publications of the organisation, statics are interesting. Contribution to Family planning 2020 ‘Vision of Pakistan’ is 20 percent, Unmet needs for couples stand at 6.3 million, It is a global partnership that supports the rights of women and girls to decide freely, and for themselves, whether, when and how many children they want to have. More heartening is the result of efforts made so far as 3,105 maternal deaths, 3,65,287 abortions, and 2.168 million unintended pregnancies were averted because of urgent focus on such an important subject, which has a direct relevance to national growth rate. Contraceptive prevalence (CPR), now at 35 percent, is to be taken to 55 percent. Dr Rab stated that girls hired by his organisation are called ‘sitara sisters’ and they are involved in yeomen service to create awareness that pregnancies should be after long periods. They convince women intending to be pregnant, the need to take care of themselves. Pay attention to their food, but poverty becomes a big hurdle. Nevertheless human endeavour is untiring job, and has to move forward. Obstacles need not stop commitments for the society to fritter away.
Using an Urdu terminology, he said that ‘hawwa ki beti’ (daughter of mother Eve) must be taken care of. That mission needs to be pursued relentlessly, no matter how difficult. Greenstar is involved in that with dedication. He felt happy that in Khyber Pakhtunkhaw has been paying attention to health education and police reforms, which made their task much more easier. He also thought that religious leaders must realize their responsibilities that society had to get rid of wrong notions. Positivist must replace negativity.