In a tiny island off Karachi’s coast something special is happening.
In order to reach it, you have to hire a boat taxi at Keamari harbour, for about Rs600 and it will take you across the waters to Baba Island in just ten minutes.
Baba Island is inhabited by a community of roughly 20,000 to 30,000 poor fisherfolk, 90% of whom work in the fisheries, boat repairing or netting. The island, which used to be part of the mangroves, has struggled with a lack of government attention. It doesn’t have a proper fresh water supply, garbage disposal service or healthcare services.
But the women of the island now have access to a tiny clinic that was opened by midwife Neha Mankani’s Mama Baby Fund. It has been providing them and Shamspir and Bhit islands emergency healthcare.
“We tend to gynae patients and pregnant women,” explains Tahira, who is a coordinator with the fund. “We even help babies who need to go to the neonatal ICU in the city.”
Sometimes the staff tackles serious cases like when women have miscarriages. “We send the women to Lady Dufferin Hospital for emergencies,” she says. They also send them to Kharadar General Hospital, help with logistics, and liaise with hospital staff.
One of the greater problems was transport to the mainland. And so, the clinic invested in its first ambulance boat in December to provide a free 24/7 service for the three islands. An old boat was renovated to take a stretcher and oxygen. If it makes two trips a day, the monthly cost comes to roughly Rs60,000 in diesel. The fund hopes to start the service with the next tide.
In the meantime, on Thursday, the clinic staff and volunteers came to spread some good cheer ahead of Eid. They brought mehndi to apply to the tiny hands, turning the two-room clinic into a mini-bazaar. Children and their mothers were delighted to receive bangles, goodie bags and clothes.