Health Deprivation: “A luxury called Health.”
Amidst all the honking of the Karachi traffic, a soft tapping noise awakens me from my sleep. As I flutter open my heavy eyelids, groggy, I take a quick peek outside the car window. My eyes land on a little boy standing outside my window with his palms outstretched. He was begging for money. His clothes, tattered and covered in dirt, hang loosely around his thin body. His bony limbs were trembling from the cold wind. The little boy, who is not older than 7, is filthy. His hair is matted with sweat and grease and his face is darkened with soot and mud. He was looking at me with desperation and so I slowly reach into my wallet and grab 20 rupees. As I roll down the window, and hold out the 20 rupees, the boy’s face brightens. He smiles, muttering a soft “Thank you, baji”. Holding on tightly to the 20 rupees, the little boy walks away, his eyes searching for another sympathetic face. I sigh and lean back into the comfort of my seat and wonder about the little boy whose world lights up with only 20 rupees.
I wanted to know more about this boy. Karachi traffic was being as flaky as it always is. I knew I would be stuck on this signal for quite some time so I rolled down the window and called the boy back. A look of joy followed by confusion came upon his face. He probably thought that he was either getting more money, or had gotten into trouble. Apprehensively he approached me and in a frail voice asked “Jee, baji?”. I looked at him and asked him “Where’s your family?”. He replied that his father had been sick for quite some time and doesn’t leave his charpai. His mother, on the contrary, was sick with what he thought was Dengue. That was why he has to beg to feed his 4 younger siblings. Barely able to finish these 2 sentences, the boy let out a terrible whooping cough. The cough ended with him spitting blood on the side of the road. I handed the boy 100 rupees, feeling bad about his situation. As the traffic signal turned green, my car sped away.
I was overcome with emotion. I spend more than 1000 rupees a day, solely on food, whereas that little boy barely earned 100 rupees a day. There are millions of others like him out there, who can’t even afford proper health care. This little boy was working so hard to make ends meet for his family. He was so selfless that he didn’t even realize how it was affecting his own health. He probably didn’t even know the intensity of his situation and most probably won’t even do anything to get himself checked. Most poor people aren’t even aware of the fact that healthcare is something of grave importance. Even if they do realize that they should go to a doctor, there isn’t one available for them or they can not afford to go to one.
As I near my school, I ponder about the kind of life that the little boy will have. He will never receive a proper education and will probably spend his days begging or rag picking. He will grow up with no hope for a better future. If he survives the terrible cough he had, 50 years from now, he will be an old man lying on the side of the road. He would either still be begging or making his kids beg.
Just the thought of this disturbs me. Imagine what it must be like living in these situations. Health care is something that most of us take for granted but it’s a privilege. The fact that we can get up and go to the doctor when we have a fever or a runny nose, is something most of the population of Pakistan can’t even imagine of doing. It makes me think will it always be like this? Or will there be some change that will improve the health care system for those who are living below the poverty line?