Stories about hygiene

Why do 25 million Pakistanis defecate openly?

During moments of reflection it sometimes occurs to me that, as a nation, we have been conditioned to only react to tragedies on a large scale. In the greater scheme of things, this ability to suppress emotional reactions to the trauma that surrounds us serves as a defence mechanism of sorts; one that allows us to go about each day without being overwhelmed by paralysing depression. With this filter in place, we are able to circumvent the accompanying responsibility, writing off what we deem minor and letting it drown under a sea of other (more) pressing issues. Failing to ...

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Labour Day: The continuous plight of our workers

Labour struggle and issues in Pakistan receive little attention. This issue is not glamorous enough for the mass media and nor does it drive up ratings. In all fairness, a country in the middle of a battle against violent religious extremism has other priorities. The fact that this Labour Day will be observed like every other public holiday is a sad reflection of our society. Some major incidents have taken place over the last few months with regards to the rights of workers. However out of these, only the PIA case stands out as one which gathered significant attention. The management at Nestle’s ...

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Eidul Azha and Pakistan’s hygiene issue

A few days ago, the cattle markets began receiving a huge number of people every hour, coming from different parts of the city, to buy the sacrificial animal that suited their budget and met their needs convincingly. Different animals, ranging from cows and goats to camels, were seen almost everywhere, albeit on a street or a former empty, barren piece of land. Animals were tied to posts almost every step of the way. And we all know, where there is a herd of cattle, there is a foul smell taking over the air. The city started to look, and smell, like a ...

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An Indian in Pakistan

A simple white shalwar kameez, a pair of traditional Peshawari shoes and a black jacket. The packed hall of about 900 people exploded into thunderous cheers and a standing ovation. Young boys and girls jumped up with excitement, thumped their tables and filled the air with whistles. The welcome befitted a rock star. The man in white moved to the stage and commenced speaking. He spoke clearly, simply and in elegant Urdu; every member of the audience could understand him. His thoughts were crystal clear; he stood for a multi- cultural and secular framework, believed in a corruption free society, ...

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Do you have a toilet in your house?

Almost two and a half billion people in the world do not have toilets in their homes or lack access to proper sanitation facilities. South Asia makes a significant contribution to these staggering numbers – 65% in India, 53% in Pakistan and 45% in Bangladesh. Not only does this result in adverse health-related problems, like malnutrition and diarrhoea, it also severely affects the economy. On an average, countries in South Asia lose 6% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) because of poor sanitation. Though many people in the region consider this lack of proper washrooms a major problem, it is not the health-related issues that worry them. ...

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Polio: Can Imran Khan help defeat the ugly villain in Pakistan’s story of survival?

On October 24, 2013 when I saw polio teams entering my colony – Musharraf Colony in Hayatabad – it was the first time I knew what they had come for. They had come to save lives. I ran home to tell my mother to get my little sister vaccinated. Polio – the villain It was only the night before that I had been peeping into one of the community halls where the elderly, adults and children from the colony had gathered because we were told that some goras (foreigners) were coming to deliver a talk. I had seen one of these lectures before but this time ...

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Blue drums: Beverages and milk that could kill you

Nowadays, wherever we go, we find blue-coloured drums, which are used by shopkeepers to store water and prepare beverages. People drink the beverages without any qualms even after coming to know about the way they are prepared. It seems that nobody knows that the blue drum is not good for our health. Different chemicals are imported from different countries in these very drums and once they are emptied, they are sold in the market to be purchased by uninformed buyers, who use these to store liquid products. The government of Pakistan has prohibited the use of these chemical-ridden drums but shopkeepers ...

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Yesterday’s urine bag, today’s plastic plate!

On February 9, nine sanitary workers were caught red-handed selling infected urine bags, empty glucose drips, used syringes, blood transfusion waste behind Shalamar Hospital, in Lahore. Instead of incinerating the infected disposables, they inserted them into a crusher installed on hospital premises and sold them for higher prices. The crushed infected plastics travel to plastic scrapyards, situated along Lahore’s Bund Road, and are further treated for making straws, plastic cutlery and dishes. The unhygienic practice has been going on for years as there is very little legal accountability of those engaging in acts of selling hospital waste. Shalamar Hospital is not the ...

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A doctor’s symbol of hygiene: A (dirty) lab coat

Tariq Road perhaps becomes one of the filthiest shopping areas in Karachi after hours. As one passes by the next morning, blue plastic shopping bags scrape along the sidewalks, dragging in the dust along with numerous small scrap pieces of turquoise, hot pink and dusty beige coloured fabric. There are also trashed plastic bottles, which one could have easily recycled. It is strange, especially in Karachi — potentially the country’s most filthy city — that doctors, who are required to be sterile when dealing with different patients, wear their lab coats far from their practicing facilities; Dolmen Mall, where I observed ...

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Getting my hands dirty in Islamabad

Freak weather and climate change, have made for some beautiful Sundays in Islamabad. Yesterday was one of them. So, a friend and I decided to make the best of it by hitting one of the picturesque trails – the perfect antidote to the bureaucratic air that otherwise prevails the environs of the capital. The atmosphere was quite festive. What a blessing it is to walk in the woods, I had thought to myself. The tribulations of the week were shaken off almost magically as we trudged along the trail taking in the scenery. Nature’s palette was especially vibrant that day. Bronze and gold ...

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