PESHAWAR: Siblings Salma, Rabia, Komal, Israr and Bilal all suffer from mental and physical disabilities since birth. They are unable to walk or speak, and their mother, Manawara, who is not aware of her exact age and believes she is over 50, is a single parent struggling to pass each day.
The family lives in a small mud house behind the building of Sarhad University. Neighbours often hear the children crying when they are hungry or when the temperatures soar. It’s difficult to feed the children in time or provide necessary facilities in the house after her husband, a farmer, died. Manawara’s only source of income now is a small herd of goats.
The children are confined to their beds. Earlier, Manawara could carry them around the house on her shoulders, but feels that she no longer has the strength to do this.
She says she needs the government’s assistance to help care for her family. “I have visited all government hospitals in Peshawar, but no one has been able to treat my children,” she told The Express Tribune, adding the psychiatric facility inside Peshawar Central Jail issued registration cards to the five. “However, no medication was provided.”
Manawara says her family had intermarried for generations and believes it to be the cause of her children’s suffering.
After exhausting her chances of being supported by government-run hospitals, Manawara once visited a famous pir. The pir said he would provide the children with spiritual therapy on the condition that two of them beg for him like many others he had hired.
“These are my children, they will never beg while I am alive,” she said, thanking her neighbours for taking care of her children when she is busy cooking for her family and tending to the animals.
The government announces millions of rupees in social welfare every year, but never provides anything to deserving people who are suffering from a multitude of problems, she said, adding “Only the Benazir Income Support Programme provides us money after lengthy intervals. So far, no government funds or medicine has been provided for my children.”
The family’s gas and electricity supply has also been cut after they were unable to pay their bills for several months. “I have told them I cannot afford to pay the bills; I can hardly manage to arrange food for my children.”
“All I want is someone to help me provide them medical treatment and relieve their pain.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.