PESHAWAR: As Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center (SKMCH) prepares to inaugurate its third facility in Karachi with the fourth being planned for Quetta, the United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) has commended SKMCH’s charitable work.
“It is remarkable that so many citizens have contributed to this initiative. It is a philanthropic initiative and it really speaks volumes about the compassionate sentiment that prevails in Pakistan,” was the way UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi commended SKMCH services.
Grandi stated that they knew quality care was also important for cancer patients adding that the delegation also felt that patients were in good hands and there was hope for treatment.
He stated that in a meeting on Saturday morning, Prime Minister Imran Khan was happy that the UNHCR officials were visiting SKMCH adding that PM Khan invited the international community to do more for this region since it has been affected by violence and has been impacted by the presence of refugees for so many years.
The UNHCR also provided high-tech machines worth US$6.2 million for Peshawar’s SKMCH to support free-of-cost treatment to cancer patients, including Afghan refugees. The radiotherapy machines will be fully operational by the end of this year.
“It’s a recognition of what Pakistan has done for four decades to host refugees from neighboring Afghanistan,” Grandi said adding, “it is also a concrete gesture of sharing a little bit of that burden and giving back to the community in the form of some equipment which I hope will be useful for them and refugees.”
With 150,000 new cases every year besides 120,000 deaths annually, SKMCH has been offering free of cost services to over 75 percent of the total patients. In 2017, however, the facility offered free services to over 90 percent of the patients including Afghan nationals, majority residing as refugees in Pakistan.
According to SKMCH Chief Executive Officer Dr Faisal Sultan the facility offered services to 3,400 Afghan refugees during last 10 years with 680 in 2017 alone adding that the expected number of beneficiaries from the machinery donated by UNHCR, was around 1,500 per year.
On this occasion, film star Mahira Khan stated that she was involved in awareness programmes against cancer specifically breast cancer for the last six years adding that she was proud to have been involved in such awareness campaigns.
“I have been associated with the SKMCH for six years, using my voice to raise awareness and lift the stigma of breast cancer so the disease can be detected early and treated,” she said adding “I am deeply moved by the hospital’s mission of equal treatment for all, irrespective of their ability to pay – including refugees.”
Besides Mahira Khan, Grandi was accompanied by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock.
Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation to break down cancer cells and treat tumors in the body. UNHCR will also provide training to the technicians to operate the equipment effectively. The new cancer equipment will provide some 30,000 treatment sessions to both Pakistanis and Afghan refugees in 2019.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2018.