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Balochistan Needs A Cancer Hospital. Will PM Imran Fulfill His Promise?

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Balochistan continues to face the life-ravaging disease of cancer at an alarming rate. Many patients die battling with the fatal disease annually. Nevertheless, the ostrich approach of the government towards the alarming issue of cancer is pathetically discouraging and frustrating. Furthermore, the desperate shortage of access to cancer hospitals is further fueling the cases up. A few days after the ascension to the post of prime minister, Imran khan visited Quetta city and promised a cancer hospital for the poverty-ridden Balochistan.

With each passing day, the number of cancer patients are soaring up. There are very few statistics regarding cancer patients in Balochistan, however, that too represent the cases only in the main cities of the province. As per a report, Quetta city alone had 10,924 cases of cancer from 1998 to 2004. Further, a seminar was held in Quetta in 2018 on “International Day of Cancer” in which a reasonable number of health experts participated; according to a speaker, 10,000 cases appeared on the surface in Balochistan from 2014 to 2017. Among them were mostly the cases of women with breast cancer. Meanwhile, the rest of the cases across the province even remain undocumented, particularly from far-flung areas.

The vigorous demand of cancer hospitals in the province got momentum particularly after the tragic death of Rehan Rind- a 20 years old student from district Khuzdar, Balochistan- in 2016. The loss of Rehan Rind made a strong and energetic wave of protests, rallies and social media campaigns demanding a cancer hospital in Balochistan. Moreover, the young, passionate and energetic activists took the demand in a new turn. Eventually, it becomes a hard talk in the province.

Shortly after the demise of Rehan Rind, we saw another case on social media asking for the donations to meet up the treatment expenses. This time, however, for Humera Baloch-a resident of District Kech. The case of young soul Humera Baloch popped up a vigorous campaign of donations across the province. Eventually the expenses of treatment were paid by a philanthropist. The case further strengthened the demand of cancer hospitals, and augmented the pace of hashtags at another level.

Likewise, after a short pause, the case of Hammal Zareef with blood-cancer oozed out on the mainstream social media with more accentuated appeal for a cancer hospital in Balochistan. Hammal belonged to Kech, too. Again a score of students, human rights defenders and social media activists brought the plea of donation up the ladder in various cities of the province to meet the huge amount of almost 50 lakhs for the treatment. Sadly, the beautiful soul lost the battle against the deadly disease of blood-cancer in 2021. Consequently, throwing the whole nation into a state of anguish and grief. He faced the fatal disease with a smile on his face and fought valiantly till his last breath.Undoubtedly, Balochistan is blessed with an unbounded treasury of natural resources, yet it articulates a highly sobering art of dearth of basic health care skeleton. The province has only two cancer centers: The Center for Nuclear Medication and Radiotherapy (CENAR) and Bolan medical oncology department. Both of them have least facilities of even the initial diagnosis procedure of cancer, and the people living in penury hardly get access to these centers. Further, as per the head of the oncology department BMC, it doesn’t even have a chemotherapy machine- a highly important machine for the initial diagnosis of cancer. Due to scarce amenities, the people of the province often usually go way up to Karachi where they can acquire the required treatment facilities.

According to health experts, approximately 1.5M is required for initiating treatment and a huge sum of 20M for the complete treatment – an amount far beyond the reach of an ordinary person residing in Pakistan generally and Balochistan particularly. Therefore, the fatal disease leaves the patients with no other alternatives apart from sharing their plight on social media to get financial help in the shape of donations.

Sadly, this is the reflection of a province which is usually dubbed as the emerging economic hub of Pakistan. Perhaps the lives are not a matter of concern for the government, but the resources.

In spite of a number of losses of innocent souls, the stakeholders continue to adopt an ill-concerned approach towards building a cancer hospital in Balochistan. It seems the province enjoys a hollow space when it comes to provision of amenities. Moreover, the precarious issue of cancer hospital must be a grave concern for Mr. Khan who himself experienced that pain. It is high time that Prime Minister Imran khan fulfills his made promise in letter and spirit so that tomorrow we do not have to witness another Hammal. At least, the people of Balochistan deserve a cancer hospital.

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