Sadia & the gunmen

Dr Sadia Malick is about to return to the mountains of Havelian in Pakistan to find out how Ammalife’s Emergency Transport Scheme is evolving. Shakeel Ahmed, the local pharmacist who manages the Ammalife project, says that local people are looking forward to seeing Dr Sadia after a 9 year interval. Here’s why.

It was 2000 and Sadia was in the clinic (her toddler daughter with her) when a distraught woman clutching a dead baby came in.  The child in her arms had severe developmental abnormalities. There was a commotion outside and a distressed worker from the clinic threw open the door and told Sadia that she had to leave immediately. A group of armed men were framed in the doorway. They were from the woman’s village in the mountains and they had come to kill her because she was a witch who has given birth to a ‘monster’ child.

The clinic workers were pulling at Sadia to get her out of the room safely. The woman was weeping behind her. The armed men were in front of her. Her terrified toddler is holding tight to her leg. Sadia,stood her ground and with a strength of will (born of panic she claims!) she ordered the men to sit down on the floor and put their guns down. If they want to kill the ‘witch’, they’ll have to kill her first. To her astonishment, they did as she told them!

And then, in Sadia’s own words, ‘ I gave them my neural tube defects lecture’. She asked the clinic worker to go and get a year’s supply of folic acid from the pharmacy. She told the men – and the now slightly less terrified woman – that she must take one of these tablets every day and that next year she would have a healthy child. ‘But you might be wrong and where will we find you next year’, remonstrated some of the men. ‘I’ll still be here,’ she answered. And so, 18 months later, the same woman came back to seek out Dr Sadia and show her her healthy newborn son.

Then the bags of corn began to arrive. The men in the village wanted to show their thanks and so every now and again, a bag of corn would be left at the clinic for Dr Sadia. Years later, when Sadia was working in Birmingham, she met Arri Coomarasamy who had just started Ammalife and the Havelian project was born.

Sadia’s conviction is that attitudes can change when you work alongside people, and that every woman has a fundamental right to safe childbirth. All families want this for their mothers, sisters & wives.


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