News South Asian theme issue

Karachi's quiet revolutionary

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 01 April 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:790
  1. Khabir Ahmad
  1. Karachi

    A 76 year old philanthropist who provides ambulances and welfare centres for Pakistan's poor people now wants to start a non-profit drug company. Abdul Sattar Edhi tells Khabir Ahmad of his plans

    Pakistan is a nation where rich people can obtain medical services that are as good as any in the world but where poor people have little access to health care. One man who has tackled this inequity head on is 76 year old Abdul Sattar Edhi, whose charity—the Edhi Welfare Trust—spends around one billion rupees (£10m; $17.5m; €14.5m) a year on projects for people who are destitute, abandoned, or mentally ill.

    In a country where all too often government ambulances are used by hospital administrators and their families as private transport, Edhi's fleet of 750 ambulances in more than 100 cities is often the only means of transport for sick, wounded, or dead people. A charge is made for the journeys, but it is a nominal amount. And the charity also runs 300 welfare centres.

    Despite the impressive size of his charitable trust today, Edhi comes from a humble background. He grew up in Gujarat state in India and was educated only up to the end of primary school. He and his family migrated from India to Pakistan at the partition …

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