Putting Youth in Charge – The Story of Qurban Ali

Tuesday 14 March 2017

19-year old Qurban Ali is wise beyond his years. He lives in the small village of Garhi Hassan in Tehsil Thul of Jacobabad District in Sindh. He has five sisters, four of whom are married, and two younger brothers. His father passed away when he was young and the responsibility of supporting his family fell on his shoulders.

Qurban had to quit school when he was in the 9th grade and started working as a labourer to earn money for his family. He often has to travel to far off villages to find work, but despite all his efforts, he earns only PKR 2,300 (approximately USD 22) per month. However, the lack of money and hours of hard labour have not deterred him from sending his younger brothers to school. “I wasn’t able to continue my studies because my father passed away. Now I want my brothers to get education so they can enjoy the opportunities that I couldn’t,” he says.

In early 2016, Qurban started working as a labourer at Rural Health Centre (RHC) Garhi Hassan, earning PKR 600 per month. While working there, he observed that the hospital staff was not sensitive towards the needs of the patients, the facilities were inadequate and there was no mechanism to register complaints or recommendations for the health facility. Qurban knew about the difficulties associated with accessing quality Integrated Maternal Newborn and Child Health (IMNCH) care in his village. His mother’s sister-in-law, like most other women in the village, had to go to a hospital in Jacobabad for delivering her child. Located a good hour’s drive away from the village, it costs PKR 5000 to get to the hospital, while the delivery costs around PKR 50,000 rupees – amount that only a handful in Garhi Hassan can afford.

In 2016, a Community Mobilisation Officer (CMO) working for Save the Children, approached Qurban and convinced him to join the health facility’s Quality Improvement Team (QIT) as part of the IMNCH project, which aims to strengthen the link of the community with hospitals in Sindh through closer collaboration with partners. The intervention provides support to improve immunisation outreach through community health workers, strengthening the infrastructure and provision of essential supplies at healthcare facilities.

Qurban Ali joined RHC Garhi Hassan’s QIT as a member on September 5, 2016. Under the IMNCH project, Save the Children paid special attention to disability and gender inclusion while forming the QIT. The project team made sure that a platform was provided to adolescent boys and girls from the villages to voice their opinions and carry the message forward. In a QIT of 20 people, 10 are women and 10 are men, with the majority belonging to the local community. Rules for forming QITs call for including disabled men and women in each QIT, as well as an adolescent boy and a girl.

The creation of such a diverse and inclusive QIT has ensured quick progress for the health facility in a matter of months. After the floods in Sindh in 2010, Garhi Hassan did not have a functional labour room. In 2016, Save the Children established a fully equipped labour room with female staff for the locals. The senior staff is more responsive towards the needs of the patients now and a Woman Medical Officer (WMO) has been hired at the facility. The hospital has been renovated and has a waiting area and an immunisation room. The Out-Patient Department (OPD)was mostly empty before but now 400-500 people visit it daily, including prenatal and postpartum clients.

Qurban is very happy with the progress of the facility now. He says:

“The QIT is very supportive. My opinion is not disregarded just because I am a child. The medicines are of good quality and provided free of cost. We are working to provide more facilities for disabled people and a C-section facility here. I tell the people in my village about the services here and ask them to visit it for better healthcare.”