Climate Emergency Is Health Emergency, UK Veteran Doctor Says

Professor Abdul Rashid Gatrad, OBE, has urged the Pakistani government to empower the most underprivileged children, aligning this with the UN SDG.

Climate Emergency Is Health Emergency, UK Veteran Doctor Says

One of Britain's most senior and respected consultant pediatricians, Professor Abdul Rashid Gatrad, OBE, has called on the Pakistani government to empower, with vocational training, the most underprivileged children, aligning this with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

As CEO of Midland International Trust (MIAT), Professor Abdul Rashid Gatrad has raised over £3 million for various health-related development projects around the world. He has built, with his colleagues, a state-of-the-art cleft hospital in Gujarat, Pakistan. The project was completed so professionally and was so impactful that ITV presented a 15-minute documentary on it. All services, including operations, are provided free and funded by mainly Muslim and Pakistani donors in the West Midlands.

The Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at three universities—the University of Birmingham, the Universities of Kentucky, and Wolverhampton—was awarded the OBE from the Queen in 2002 for services to ethnic minority children in the Midlands, and in 2014 he was made deputy lieutenant to Her Majesty the Queen for his services. In the same year, he was made Freeman of the Borough of Walsall for halving the death rate in new-born babies and for his part in the research into the hepatitis vaccine that was subsequently rolled out globally.

Born originally in India but working in Pakistan, in 2003 Prof. Gatrad met Mr. Khwaja Mohammed Aslam, a Pakistani bus driver and businessman who was the chairman of Midland International Aid Trust UK (MIAT). He invited him in 2005 to be the CEO. Since then, the charity has made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, particularly children. At the time, MIAT only had £20,000 of working capital, and Pakistan was the only country where humanitarian aid was provided. Since then, Rashid has sacrificed time, effort, energy, and money to make MIAT truly global—now in over 20 countries.

Professor Abdul Rashid Gatrad, who started as a postman before becoming a doctor in 1971, is largely financed through MIAT, a state-of-the-art 3-story hospital that houses audiology, speech therapy, dental services, two wards, and two operating theaters. The hospital is supported by four doctors who run round-the-clock operations and provide free medical aid to patients in the area, including those who travel from far and wide. The hospital grounds have playing facilities. Then it was in 2016, during a visit to Gujarat, that he met a female teenage street beggar on crutches. She had clubbed feet that were bare and bleeding. This led to Professor Rashid Gatrad setting up the clubfoot center, where now hundreds are being treated from birth, avoiding operations when older.

He said, “I request the Government of Pakistan to pay attention to vocationally training children and youth to empower them, especially girls. This will be good for Pakistan’s long-term development. Currently, there is no focus on this area. We are prepared to work with Pakistan to support the effort. We have completed a huge maternity and children’s hospital named after my mother, Jubaida, in Gujarat, Pakistan, which is now dedicated to cleft operations. This hospital is a demonstration of what can be achieved. Our charity goal is to reduce poverty and improve health outcomes from sustainable projects for thousands of the most disadvantaged populations in over 20 countries across Africa and Asia.”

He said, “The Jubaida Gatrad hospital was completed in 2015 and now provides employment to many. MIAT has provided medical equipment, and the hospital is attracting more and more people to Gujarat city. After I set up the club foot center at this hospital in 2016, Ruth Lawson from the British High Commission attended its inaugural opening to witness the highly trained international cleft/clubfoot surgical team from the UK that I had assembled. The Overseas Plastic Surgery Appeal (OPSA) team of 20 strong people travels twice a year to Pakistan. All give up their time free for projects in which I have led the development of a very clear and targeted model of interventions, namely an integrated and multi-sectoral pathway of care for children that resources local healthcare capacities to screen them and, in the process, provides children access to education through, for example, help with hearing and speech therapy. Now an intensive care center is under construction, funded by my MIAT."

The director of Deafkidz International, Steve Crump, visited the center in 2017 and hailed it as a revolutionary set-up for a facility like that in Pakistan. Over the subsequent 3 years, he helped develop the audiology services. The professor said, “Collaborating with Deafkidz International, we have screened 20,000 children with deafness in Punjab, Pakistan. Now 20 million people in the Sindh district have access to this service that I helped set up and facilitate. Improving such disabilities and supporting education, particularly for girls, ensures that children take their rightful place in society and do not beg on the streets with a potential for abuse and trafficking.”

He said, “Over the last 15 years, in addition to the cleft and club foot centers we have set up in Pakistan, a breast care service for women, an artificial limb fitting center, which houses the club foot center named after my father, Mahomed Gatrad, cataract camps, hearing services for the new-born, dental services, and an outreach clinic for elderly and pregnant women in Sooklan Gujrat."

The veteran doctor’s work extends to over 20 countries, including Somalia, Malawi, Gambia, Syria, Bangladesh, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nepal, where he provided 1000 huts for families with children, the elderly, and the disabled after the earthquake in 2014. ‘’A lot of my international work is funded by my NHS salary donated through the GAYE scheme over the last 15 years. In addition, I get strong financial support from connections with business people worldwide in countries such as Dubai, the UK, South Africa, etc.” 

The doctor explained that through MIAT projects, he has arranged over 5000 cataract operations in Pakistan, Kashmir, and Malawi; delivered over 500 cataract operations in Bangladesh; carried out 40 operations in Sierra Leone on teenage girls with vaginal fistulae; delivered food provisions, fresh water, and blankets to refugees in Syria, Jordan, Kenya, and Lebanon; built a 3 km fresh water pipeline in a village in Somalia; built houses in Malawi in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan after the floods; and supported vocational training projects in Sierra Leone, Malawi, Turkey, India, Kashmir, and Pakistan.

He added, “Over the last 10 years, I have been providing two ‘Gatrad Bursaries’ per year to doctors and nurses who travel abroad to train and teach.” Professor Abdul Rashid Gatrad regularly travels to Gujarat to train and teach nurses in the care of new-born babies. He has trained more than 1200 nurses over the last 15 years, and some of the nurses he trained now work in England and Europe in the medical profession.

Over six years ago, he set up WASUP—World Against Single-Use Plastic—which incorporates the impacts of climate change. He has fought tooth and nail to decrease plastic pollution through the Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle principles. He has given talks to many august organizations, including UNESCO, on these subjects. WASUP is now in over 50 countries.

At 78, he is still full of enthusiasm to make a difference in the lives of the needy. Professor Abdul Rashid Gatrad plans to visit Pakistan again with the hope of meeting government officials to raise the profile of his charity’s campaign for vocational education for some of the most downtrodden sections of society. The renowned doctor remains determined to continue as a charity worker till his last breath. He said, “Since a young age, I have considered the struggle of the thousands of disadvantaged people around the world as my own. I have the courage and conviction to not succumb to despair and defeat but to rise to challenges with an ever-increasing resolve. I believe I have improved lives and brought joy to thousands of people in practical, lifesaving, and life-enhancing ways. I have done nothing for self-aggrandizement. This is for humanity and to leave a legacy of bringing hope and serving humanity.”