Public Health in the Border Areas of Ghanche District

Muhammad Irfan Chourbati

Chourbat Valley is a cluster of villages located in the extreme north of Pakistan along the India-Pakistan border in the Ghanche District of Gilgit-Baltistan. The residents of this valley are well known for their sacrifices and sufferings during the decades long, perpetual, war between Pakistan and India. The people in these villages, at the edge of the border, are the first civilians on the ground to respond the any fatal attack from the Indian borders, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pakistan Army, to defend their motherland.

Recently, the region’s military commander, along with the head of the district’s civil administration, visited the only ten-bedded hospital in Siksa Village, one of Chourbat valley’s settlements. The people of the region consider this meeting, and visit, of great importance to improve their health facilities.

Soon after the Kargil war, keeping in consideration the sensitivity of the border, the numbers of military units were increased in the region. In order to accommodate the large number of military deployment in the area the military started using all the government buildings as shelters. Later, the administration of the only public hospital in the area was also shifted to the military’s medical department to increase the efficiency and to facilitate the large number of military personals in the border region.

During the initial years of the military administration the hospital had state of the art facilities with well trained medical practitioners who facilitated both the general public and the army personnel.

The locals praised the role of military for bringing revolutionary improvement in the hospital and introducing best health facilities which they had never witnessed in the area before. Large numbers of sophisticated surgeries and almost all the minor surgeries were carried out in the hospital. Due to the excellent health facilities, residents from the neighboring villages also started taking advantage of the facility and people started travelling from far-flung areas of Gilgit-Baltistan to Siksa Village for medical purposes.

But, after few years the number of border skirmishes reduced and gradually the facilities at the hospital also started shrinking.

Now, the local people often complaint against the lack of medicines and doctors in the hospital. Basic medical facilities, like X-Ray scans, are also not available in the hospital anymore.

People often show their concerns to the politicians and civil administration but they don’t pay much attention as they think that the hospital is under military administration.

Recent photographs posted on Facebook page of District Administration Ghanche showed the joint visit of the district’s administrative head Deputy Commissioner Mr. Adeel Haider, and the commander of 323 Brigade Siachen, Brigadier Nayyer Naseer to the Siksa Hospital. The two heads during this important meeting met the military and civil staff at the hospital and exchanged gifts.

The public look at this visit as a ray of hope, expecting to get improved health facilities in the region’s only 10-bed hospital. The public further expects the civil and military administration and public representatives to sit together and strive for the provision of all the basic health facilities to local residents.

In the current situation the people of the area are compelled to travel about 6 hours to visit a doctor concerning any serious health problem. While those poor people who cannot afford the financial burden for travelling to other cities often go through worst health conditions and wait for their ultimate fate, death.

The contributor is a Master Fellow at the Department of Media and Communication Technical, University of Ilmenau.

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