Monday, May 21, 2012
Along with infrastructures and mobilisation of human resources, a comprehensive legal framework must be established at provincial level to eradicate acid violence from the country.
The demand was made at an event organised by the Acid Survivors Foundation’s (ASF) to launch the ‘Ambulance of Hope’ in collaboration with the French Senate and celebrates its 5-year of partnership with British medical team, Interplast UK.
Senator Richard Young, senator for French abroad, actually initiated the project ‘Ambulance of Hope’ for Pakistan after reading Nazeeran’s book ‘Brulee a l’acide’ (Burnt with Acid). It was a unique pilot socio-economic rehabilitation project conducted by the ASF for one of the acid attack survivors, Nazeeran, where she co-wrote her story with a French journalist Celia Mercier. She has now rebuilt her life with the help of royalties she earned from her book.
After reading book, Senator Richard Young contacted ASF Chairperson Valerie Khan Yusufzai and they jointly developed the idea of arranging an ambulance for acid victims as most of the acid attack victims lack transport facilities to reach hospital in time.
Senator Young proposed the idea of ambulance in the French Parliament after getting technical advice of British surgeon Dr. Charles Viva and Pakistani surgeon Dr. Hamid Hassan to catch upon the golden hours that victims face right after the attack. Keys of the ambulance were handed over to ASF by the French Ambassador Philippe Thiebaud.
The ‘Ambulance of Hope’ would not only transport victims of attacks to the nearest hospital but will also act as a mobile tool to sensitise grassroots communities about the laws related to acid and burn attacks. The vehicle will also help in generating a culture sensitive dialogue about women, child and human rights at large.
“Our work cannot be stuck in Islamabad. The ASF has always focused on delivering directly in the communities in which the needs are exponential. This ambulance will hopefully become a vehicle of hope, dignity and peace,” said ASF Chairperson Valerie Khan Yusufzai on this occasion.
She shared some latest statistics about acid attacks in the country and said that an average of 145 attacks occurs each year in Pakistan. “Acid throwing is still a crime largely under reported,” she said adding that 141 cases of acid attacks were reported in the year 2011. Among the reported cases, 70 per cent victims are women whereas 30 per cent are men and boys. In 60 per cent of cases, the reason is domestic dispute.
Valerie thanked Senator Richard Young and the French citizens to give a concrete example of humanism and solidarity beyond borders for the benefit of acid survivors in Pakistan. “The ambulance of hope was especially relevant to ASF actions as the organization had initially been established trough a Pakistani led cross cultural project,” she said. Pakistani and French people created ASF with technical and financial support from Acid Survivors Trust International ASTI, a UK based NGO.
She also paid tribute to the UK medical team led by Dr Charles Viva for the ninth international camp in Pakistan in collaboration with Dr Hamid Hassan. Naila Farhat, an acid attack survivor and a well known activist working with ASF, also thanked Philippe Thiebaut, French Ambassador to Pakistan for the a valuable gesture of kindness by French people.
Acid throwing is a particularly vicious and damaging form of violence, wherein acid is thrown on people especially on women’s or girls’ faces. It has catastrophic effects on the human body causing the skin tissue to melt, often exposing the bones below the flesh and sometimes even dissolving the bone. It also terribly impacts the victims at psychological and social levels. “Pakistan must continue its efforts and show the way to other countries that are also asking guidance and help to address this issue,” said Valerie.
Speaking on this occasion, French Ambassador Philippe Tiebaut expressed pleasure at delivering the gift to Pakistani acid survivors. He expressed hope that this will serve as a concrete steps towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and added that although everyone was aware that much more is needed to be done, France highly appreciated the efforts of the Pakistani government to address acid violence and promote women and children rights and improve health for women and girls.
Dr. Charles Viva congratulated ASF and Dr. Hamid Hassan for their common work and wished them good luck for the coming years and for the next step that is Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2012.
In her message, MNA Dr. Atiya Inayat Ullah said that the Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2012 for Islamabad Capital territory will be on the agenda in the National Assembly on the next Private Member Day.
At the end, awards were given to the agents of change who joined the ASF struggle to eradicate Acid Violence in Pakistan. The winners in included Samar Minallah, Dr. Charles Viva and Interplast UK team, Barrister Naveed Khan, Advocate Sikandar Qazi, activist Samina Afzal Naz, ASF Field Officer Mureed Abbas Jatoi, Head Nurse in ASF Rehabilitation and Nursing Care Unit Bilquees Attal, Dr. Hamid Hassan and journalist Myra Imran.