Pakistan’s Edhi Foundation, renowned for its humanitarian relief work, on Friday offered to send a fleet of 50 ambulances to India to assist efforts to cope with a massive surge in Coronavirus infections that has swamped health services in several cities.
The offer was conveyed in a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Faisal Edhi, the director of Edhi Foundation and the son of late Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of the organisation.
“We are very sorry to hear about the exceptionally heavy impact that the pandemic has had on your country, where a tremendous number of people are suffering immensely. As a neighbouring friend, we sympathise with you greatly and during this strenuous time, we would like to extend our help in the form of fleet of 50 ambulances along with our services to assist you in addressing, and further circumventing, the current health conditions,” said the letter, which was sent to the Indian mission in Islamabad.
Speaking over phone from Karachi, Faisal Edhi told Hindustan Times that the organisation made the offer after witnessing the hardship being faced by Indian people in news reports.
“The people are suffering and this affected us. We have dealt with Covid-19 cases across Pakistan and we have the experience of operating in such situations. That’s why we offered our services,” he said.
“If permission is given by the Indian side, we are mentally and physically prepared to go across and do whatever we can to help. We will fully cooperate with the Indian authorities and are prepared to operate in any city they allow us to operate in,” he added.
The Edhi Foundation said in its letter that it wished to extend full support to Indian authorities without causing any inconvenience and would arrange all supplies that would be needed by any of its teams allowed to operate across the border.
“We are not seeking any assistance from the Indian side for our operations. We will carry our own food, fuel and other supplies and our team will include emergency medical technicians, drivers and support staff,” Faisal Edhi said.
Given the strained ties between the two countries, observers said it was unlikely that the Edhi Foundation’s offer would be accepted. Asked about this matter, Faisal Edhi replied: “We have made the offer and are fully prepared to help by operating wherever the Indian authorities want us to assist. We will cooperate fully with the local administrations and police departments.”
The Edhi Foundation’s ambulance services across Pakistan are known for being more efficient than state-run services and often reach the site of accidents or terror attacks before government ambulances. The foundation also operates orphanages, hospitals, homes for the elderly, graveyards, langars or free kitchens.
The foundation has often assisted Indian fishermen held in Pakistani jails, especially in Karachi, and facilitated their repatriation.
Abdul Sattar Edhi, who died in 2016, and his wife Bilquis played key roles in looking after Geeta, the deaf Indian woman who accidentally strayed across the border when she was nine. Bilquis personally cared for Geeta till she was repatriated in 2015. Earlier this year, Geeta was reunited with her family at Parbhani in Maharastra.