I have had the privilege to follow some of the social services that the Edhi Foundation is providing in Karachi. In particular in their homes for the abandoned and homeless, elderly and children, mental health patients, and a rehabilitation center for heroine addicts.
Edhi Foundation is a large organizational set-up running a wide range of social services in Pakistan by guiding and supporting the most deprived through hardships of life. One of the services that make the Foundation unique among all other social welfare service providers, is its dedication in providing free shelter and care for mental health patients, destitute, drug addicts, orphans and abandoned children in the highly neglected areas. It’s estimated that there are several hundred thousands of drug addicts in Karachi, Pakistan’s economical and shipping hub. Despite being illegal, a dose of heroin is easily available, affordable and often cheaper than a meal. The opium from which the heroin is made is grown in neighbouring Afghanistan along the border areas. The Edhi Foundation offers addicts a free rehabilitation at their centre in Karachi. Treatment is basic and consists of providing a drug-free environment. Only sedative injections and paracetamol are available for pain relief, methadone is rarely available and unaffordable. This cure is called “Cold Turkey” and consists of abruptly taking away a drug to which one is addicted, provoking severe pain, anxiety and mental distress. Although the patient will end the physical need for heroin after 7-10 days, it does not stop the psychological dependence. Many patients that leave the centre will unfortunately be brought back at a later stage, other will develop severe mental illnesses.
The Edhi Foundation does a remarkable job in providing support through their homes to the most vulnerable with very limited resources. Unfortunately the needs are so immense in terms of mental health care and addiction rehabilitation that larger multi disciplinary involvement is essential.