Edhi with wife Bilqees in one of their Maternity Homes
Abdul Sattar Edhi by his looks doesn’t look to be a man doing a gigantic task of helping the destitute and the needy. Clad in simple coarse attire with ordinary rubber slippers, sitting in his office which looks more like a store house rather than a posh looking NGO office, Edhi is doing what no other man could do for the poor in Pakistan. Not waiting for the government to come forward and help the poor or provide him any assistance in doing so, Edhi took upon himself to live his whole life for the needy, the downtrodden and those rotting in the streets and the slums.
Edhi and his wife, Bilqees Edhi, founded the Edhi International Foundation, , a private charity organization in Pakistan which has the largest operating establishment to reach out to the poor and help them in any way within the resources of the organization. This aged man himself bathes the dead bodies of the dead bodies of the poor who cannot afford the last rituals of the dead and buries the bodies with his own hands – all for free. Despite leading a vast charity organization, he doesn’t have limousines or a house in the elite residential estates of Karachi; rather he chooses to spend every penny that people donate to his organization for those who need it. And he with his family live in a two room apartment adjacent to the premises of Foundation’s headquarters and do not draw any salary from the organization’s funds.
Edhi’s wife Bilqees manages the free maternity home in Karachi and organizes the adoption of illegitimate and abandoned babies. Family and domestic issues are also part of the Edhi Foundation's concerns. Foundation-run homes provide for the destitute and mentally ill, while a missing-persons service reconnects separated families. On 17th September 2005, USAID and Edhi Welfare Trust signed an agreement for a health and population welfare programme “Pakistan Initiative for Mothers and New Born Health (PAIMAN)”.
The Edhi Ambulance Service has the world's largest ambulance fleet spread all over Pakistan, and this fact has earned Edhi his name in the Guinness Book of World Record. Edhi encourages women to work side by side the men, who are put as in-charges of Edhi centres, heads of maternity homes and dispensaries and office workers. In addition to the regular workers, several women volunteers help Edhi Foundation in fund raising. In Karachi alone, the Edhi Foundation runs 8 hospitals providing free medical care, eye hospitals, diabetic centres, surgical units, a 4- bed cancer hospital and mobile dispensaries. In addition to these the Foundation also manages two blood banks in Karachi. So far the Edhi Foundation has saved more than 20,000 abandoned babies, provided shelter to over 50,000 orphans. The Foundation has also trained 40,000 qualified nurses and almost a million babaies have been delivered in Edhi Maternity Centres
For the services rendered to the poor, the Italian government awarded Edhi its Balzan Peace Award in the year 2000. In 1985 Edhi received the Nishan-e-Imtiaz from the Pakistan Government besides the Magsayay Award by the Government of Philippines in 1986 and the Lenin Peace Prize. On September 22, 2010 Edhi was awarded honorary degree of Doctorate by University of Bedfordshire.
However, one wonders that despite his services to the poor and the destitute, why the services of this humble and utterly simple living entity have largely been ignored by the world. Some even question the wisdom for not awarding him the Nobel Prize for his selfless services being provided since almost five decades for no personal glory or elevation?
Abdul Sattar Edhi (Pakistanpaedia)